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Lesufi: No friends, family or close comrade benefited from R431m school project

One South Africa leader Mmusi Maimane posed questions to Lesufi via Twitter, calling for him to be as transparent as he usually purports to be on the schools deep clean controversy.

FILE: Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi inspected and closed two illegal schools in Ivory Park on 8 October 2020. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said on Thursday no friend, family member or close comrade of his benefitted from the massive R432 million project to sanitise and deep clean schools in the province within three months last year.

An investigation by Daily Maverick brought to light a report by the department revealing exorbitant expenditure by the provincial department to perform the job.

Lesufi responded saying he was not at all aware that such an amount was spent on the project and that he only became aware of it when approached by a journalist to answer some questions.

On Thursday, One South Africa leader Mmusi Maimane posed a number of questions to Lesufi via Twitter, calling for him to be as transparent as he usually purports to be. Lesufi soon responded to each question through his Twitter account.

Here are each of the questions posed and the answers Lesufi provided:

Q: When did the MEC become aware of wasteful expenditure on these sanitisation projects?
A:(Lesufi posted a screenshot of a question from a journalist, showing that he was not aware, as he alleged.)

Q: Which officials were directly responsible for approving this budget?
A: The Accounting Officer approves all operational budgets.

Q: Was due process followed in the awarding of the tenders or were there any deviations and motivations in the allocations of this tender?
A: I have since written to the SIU and the AG to investigate exactly that part of whether due process was followed.

Q: Which companies were paid to provide these services?
A: The list was published by [Daily Maverick] but I can email it to you.

Q: Which individuals directly benefited from winning the tender?
A: I don’t know any single individual, either through family, friendship or politically, that benefited out of this transaction.

Q: What connections do those companies and individuals have to government officials in the Gauteng Department of Education?
A: I have asked the integrity office in the premier’s office to investigate this aspect.

Q: What connections do these companies have to senior leaders in the ANC?
A: I can assure you no single leader from the ANC either at branch, regional, provincial or national [level] approached me for any favour regarding this transaction.

Q: Why was the R432 million not used to fix broken toilets and provide running water in schools that have this need?
A: We spent almost more [sic] than R500 million to fix all township schools toilets and the eradication of pit toilets in Gauteng.

Q: What role did Mr Panyaza Lesufi play in the approval and oversight of this class sanitisation programme?
A: During this period I was also acting MEC for Social Development, but I can assure you that I tried to the best of my capabilities to provide oversight support to both departments. I led the task to reopen schools and ensure that everything is done properly. In all those meetings I introduced to the team that it should be safety first before reopening schools. We needed to protect our staff and learners.

Q: Is the Gauteng Education Department prepared to fully disclose all its service providers and the nature of the agreements that have been entered into?
A: Yes

Q: Are any of the individuals involved in the awarding and receipt of these tenders linked in any way to the MEC?
A: No. Neither my family, relatives, friends and my immediate political friends participate in deals within the department. Every year we are compelled by law to disclose details of family members working for the department or won tenders in the department.

Q: Is the MEC prepared to step aside if found to have to execute his oversight duties or found to have benefited from this fruitless and wasteful expenditure of taxpayers' money?
A: Yes, immediately.

Lesufi ended off his responses by thanking Maimane for posing the questions to him.

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