Mandela questions changed: Daily Dispatch

Trollip’s queries on fund scandal are edited

THE Bhisho legislature appears to have flouted its own rules to shield premier Phumulo Masualle from answering questions on his role in the Mandela funeral funds scandal.

About R250 000 of public money was paid into his private bank account for funeral expenses.

The Daily Dispatch can reveal that questions relating to the transaction, submitted by the Democratic Alliance to Masualle for his oral reply during a house sitting this week, were changed.

This resulted in him not answering specific questions. DA provincial leader Athol Trollip, who sent the questions specifically to Masualle, now wants to know who changed the questions – and why.

Legislature spokesman Velisile Bukula could not be reached yesterday. No responses were received to e-mails and text messages sent to him, and his cellphone rang unanswered.

A woman who answered legislature speaker Noxolo Kiviet’s phone late yesterday said she was busy and would only be available “in an hour’s time”. Attempts to reach Masualle and provincial cabinet spokesman Mahlubandile Qwase were also unsuccessful as both their phones also went unanswered.

There were also no responses to e-mailed questions to the office of premier spokeswoman Mandisa Titi received by the time of going to print and her cellphone also went unanswered. Trollip had asked Masualle:

Whether money was paid into his personal bank account for Mandela’s state funeral while he was still finance MEC;

Who had authorised the payment and for what reasons;

Whether the money could be accounted for; and

Whether the correct procedures were followed during the transaction.

Trollip’s legislature questions came a month after the Dispatch revealed that R250 000 was deposited into Masualle’s private bank account for his use during Mandela’s mourning and funeral period. Masualle was finance MEC at the time.

The money was later returned to the provincial treasury before being deposited into a “special cheque account” for Masualle’s use during the period last December.

To Trollip’s shock, the internal question papers handed over to the MPLs listed different questions, which wanted to know broadly how much was received for the funeral.

The first and main question about whether any money was deposited into Masualle’s personal bank account was changed to:

Whether any funds were received for the purpose of Mandela’s funeral. Other questions were changed to: What was the total amount received; Into which bank account were these funds deposited; whether regulations were followed;

Who was responsible for authorising the transfer; and

Whether steps were being taken to investigate the matter.

This led to Masualle not answering any of the original questions.

During the question-and-answer session on Wednesday, the premier said no money was received for Mandela’s funeral.

He went on to explain that cabinet had taken a decision to provide for the emergency and used the Eastern Cape Development Corporation “as a centre where all funds were to be disbursed”.

“All the monies utilised were in terms of the cabinet resolutions and were all accounted for.

“Regulations were adhered to and there has been no need for the office of the premier to institute any investigation,” said Masualle.

Trollip yesterday said they were not his original questions, and he had already approached the legislature to determine what had happened.

“I have since resubmitted those questions for the premier’s oral reply in two weeks’ time. It appears that there are people in this institution who had amended my questions to provide space for the premier to wriggle out of this issue,” he said.

“I am sure that all this was done to frustrate the process. However, this has not deterred us. We are more determined than ever that the premier goes on record on this expenditure.”

On realising that Masualle was not answering his original questions, Trollip interjected to raise a point of order and said those were not the questions he asked.

When he tried to ask a follow-up question, Kiviet prevented him from doing so, saying he could not do so as he had already said the questions replied to were not his.

“You have said the questions in front of the house were not the ones you asked, therefore it becomes inappropriate to say the answer has been evaded,” Kiviet said before promising to investigate the matter.

But an agitated Trollip believes Masualle purposefully evaded his questions.

“I will then ask for written responses and if he ducks and dives again, I will take the matter to the public protector.” —