25 March 2023 | 12:20 PM

Top Northern Cape officials accused of manipulating salaries

Key Takeaways

Three high-profile figures in the Northern Cape provincial legislature are facing disciplinary action for recommending massive salary adjustments for managers in 2008/2009 that put severe strain on the legislature’s coffers.

Based on their recommendations the then speaker, Connie Seoposengwe, approved the increases. Both the auditor general and the legislature’s own annual report subsequently blamed these increases in part for questionable expenditure amounting to millions of rands.

The Mail & Guardian has obtained a report marked “secret” that identifies three senior officials as instrumental in engineering the salary increases. They are chief financial officer Joseph Mekgwe, senior corporate services manager Trevor Milford and secretary Solly Legodi.

The national department of public service and administration produced the report after the Northern Cape legislature asked it to investigate.

The report says the three officials recommended that managers get two salary increases in 2008 while the legislature was servicing an overdraft and had to cut back on running costs.

While other legislature staff received normal annual increases those of the managers were boosted to levels on a par with those of parliamentary staff. The report cites the auditor general’s recording of unauthorised expenditure totalling R44.4-million in 2008/2009, which included employees’ remuneration and some goods and services. It also notes that the legislature’s annual report said it overspent on salaries by R2.7-million in that financial year.

The same again

The “secret” report and other official documents seen by the M&G show that all legislature employees received a standard annual increase on April 1 2008. However, senior managers and managers received another increase with effect from November 1 that year.

According to the report Legodi, Mekgwe and Milford signed a memorandum recommending these revised salary structures and confirming that funds were available.

In November 2008 management issued a letter announcing cost-containment measures that resulted in all staff having to bring their own tea, coffee, sugar and milk to the office.

Staff who spoke to the M&G in confidence said the measures made it difficult for them to execute their duties and asked why their managers had received their second annual increases in the same month the cost-saving measures were put in place.

Mekgwe, Legodi and Milford failed to respond to the M&G‘s queries. Public service department spokesperson Lebohang Mafokosi referred the M&G to the legislature for comment. Speaker Boeboe van Wyk’s office said all three would face disciplinary charges of financial mismanagement.

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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit initiative to develop investigative journalism in the public interest, produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for all our stories, activities and sources of funding.

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Aisha Abdool Karim

Aisha is a freelance science and health reporter. She is joining the amaB team to work on a project about water and sanitation. Aisha’s passion for long-form narrative and investigative journalism was sparked while doing her master’s degree at Columbia University in New York. After graduating in 2018, she returned to South Africa and began working as a general beat reporter for the Daily Maverick. Aisha joined the Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism in 2020 to focus on science reporting. During her time there, she covered the COVID-19 pandemic extensively — from fact-checking harmful medical misinformation to unpacking the science behind vaccine development. Aisha’s special interests include analysing health systems and in-depth coverage of public health issues and infectious diseases. She also loves spreadsheets and digging through data.

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