Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has recommended that the deputy speaker of the Limpopo legislature pay back part of a R125‚000 cellphone bill racked up on a trip to the United States in 2014.
Mkhwebane said that Lehlogonolo Masoga had abused financial resources.
“The allegation that the Deputy Speaker incurred an exorbitant or unreasonable mobile telephone bill whilst on an official trip in the USA in August 2014 is substantiated. The actual total bill incurred for the month of August was R138‚701.99 which was inclusive of subscription services‚ roaming data usage‚ international roaming services‚ domestic data usage and VAT‚” said Mkhwebane’s report into the matter.
Just over R100‚000 went towards roaming data charges while he was on the trip.
“The allegation that the amount spent by the deputy speaker whilst on an official trip to the USA was exorbitant or unreasonable is substantiated‚” she said.
Mkhwebane gave Masoga 60 working days to pay back the funds.
Sowetan had reported in 2015 that Masoga had denied the allegations of how the bill had ballooned‚ stating that this was part of a “smear campaign” on a baseless matter by people who had no facts.
“I reject with contempt the malicious‚ libelous and defamatory allegations leveled against me by some not-so-faceless conspirators to injure my integrity for cheap political motives‚” he said at the time.
While it was initially reported that an official who complained about the bill had been suspended‚ Mkhwebane said she could not confirm this.
“My office contacted Ms Maite Toona with a view of obtaining reasons for her suspension‚ but she elected not to cooperate‚” Mkhwebane said.
Mkhwebane indicated that Masoga did not accept her findings or her proposed remedial action.
This report was one of seven that Mkhwebane released on Monday as part of her office’s quarterly media briefing. Mkhwebane clarified that in her 20 months in office‚ her office had received over 25‚200 complaints.
More than 21‚000 of those complaints had been finalised.
“Some of these are matters that should not be coming to the Public Protector‚” Mkhwebane said‚ adding that they could be dealt with by different state organs.
Only complex issues‚ which amounted to 50‚ received formal reports.