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The public protector in South Africa has called for cash to be recovered after R15 million ($1.5 million) was “irregularly spent” in the procurement of legal services.
Thuli Madonsela said the amounts charged by legal firm Morake Inc were “unconscionable” for services provided to the Department of Finance of the North West Provincial Government (NWPG).
Morake was appointed in connection with disciplinary action against three employees in 2011, but an investigation by the public protector found R500,000 ($49,530) was spent just drafting charges against the trio.
Madonsela said the procurement process was “flawed, unlawful and in violation of the constitution and the National Treasury regulations” and said disciplinary action should be taken against all the officials involved.
A related investigation is taking place concerning a member of the executive committee of the NWPG and their relationship with Morake, while Madonsela said action should be taken against the attorney in the case if misconduct is discovered.
The public protector, the Public Service Commission, the auditor-general and the South African Police have all been asked to investigate the matter by the North West Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA).
Madonsela said: “Morake Inc were initially procured for half a million for drafting the charges, thereafter their services were expanded. That was irregular. Morake Inc further double-charged the department on some of the invoices, particularly for travelling.
“The law society should check the billing by Morake Inc and check if this was consistent with professional requirements, and if any money was overbilled it should be repaid, and if there was misconduct by the attorney in this regard it should be dealt with, because this was a junior attorney with four years’ experience.”
SCOPA chairman Hlomane Chauke said the committee was “happy” with the report.
“This matter will not end here, things that need to be referred to police will be. Both the speaker and the premier will receive a copy of the report and it will be tabled in the provincial legislature."
Morake Inc could not be reached for a comment, and SM is awaiting a response from the NWPG.