North West Premier Job Mokgoro says he cannot be held liable for a breach in procurement processes which saw SA Express being paid R50 million has part of a North West airport revitalisation programme.
Mokgoro appeared at the Zondo commission on Thursday. His testimony is related to the inquiry’s investigation into the North West government’s project to revitalise airports in the province.
Talks of the programme first made an appearance at former North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo’s state of the province address in 2014. Shortly after, six airline companies were invited to make presentations on the project in August 2014. This invite fell outside of procurement processes which call for open bidding processes to be followed before bidders can be chosen.
Another meeting of the provincial executive took place in October 2014 where a proposal for the project was drawn up and the basis of the project was highlighted.
Mokgoro said the plan was for the project to be finalised by 2019 and to see a growth in traffic flights and income for the North West, specifically the Pilanesberg and Mahikeng airports.
In December 2014 the provincial executive went on to approve the appointment of SA Express for the project, but at the same time, they asked for an analysis to be made from the presentations given by other bidders. This was also unusual and made no sense if a decision had already been taken to appoint SA Express, the commission’s evidence leader Kate Hofmeyr said.
A previous witness Kutlwano Phatudi, the CFO for the North West department of safety and transport, told the commission in 2019 that Mokgoro had signed off on a R50 million payment to SA Express even though the department had no budget for the project.
Mokgoro was at the time the acting director-general at the office of the premier. The approval of the payment, on March 26, 2015, was made before a contract with SA Express was signed on March 31 2015.
Mokgoro faced tough questions on his role as the accounting officer in signing off on the R50 million payment to SA Express which could be described as an unauthorised expenditure.
Mokgoro explained that in his view there was a budget created for the project. He explained that even though the department of community safety and transport did not have the funds for the project, it was decided that funds would be sourced from other provincial departments to help fund the airport revitalisation programme.
A total of R132 million was drawn from departments and transferred to the premier’s office. He agreed that he signed off on the payment of R50 million as an approval process, but said he had no powers to block it.
He also declined to be held responsible for the procurement breaches that were not followed at the department of community and safety.
“It cannot be true that I was the accounting officer for this amount when the procurement processes happened elsewhere.”
“The department was given instructions to do the necessary processes. Once exco (provincial executive) had resolved that processes were followed the money had to be released. I was not the accounting officer otherwise I should have gone through the procurement process,” Mokgoro said.