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South Africa:Govt Official Must Pay Back Huge Phone Bill – Watchdog

The Public Protector found deputy speaker in the Limpopo legislature Lehlogonolo Masoga guilty of improper conduct and maladministration after running up a bill of over R100 000 on a work cellphone while on a US trip.

In a report released on Monday, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane recommended that Masoga pay back part of the R125 000 bill that he racked up while on an official work trip to the US in 2014.

News24 sister publication City Press previously reported that the deputy speaker had run up the bill by allegedly watching porn while on the overseas trip. The legislature then settled the huge bill.

At the time in a joint statement with the legislature, Masoga said the claims were a “smear campaign anchored on a cheap, beer-talk conspiracy to rubbish Masoga’s name” on a “baseless” matter “not supported by facts”.

“I reject with contempt the malicious, libellous and defamatory allegations levelled against me by some not-so-faceless conspirators to injure my integrity for cheap political motives,” he said in the statement.

Mkhwebane found it was substantiated that Masoga had incurred an “exorbitant or unreasonable” mobile telephone bill while on the US trip.

She further found that the deputy speaker violated the Constitution and that his conduct was improper as envisaged in the Public Protector’s Act related to maladministration.

“The amount spent by the deputy speaker was unreasonably high compared to other members of the legislature who travelled with him during the same trip to the USA,” said Mkhwebane in an executive summary of the report.

The allegation that an employee of the legislature was suspended after querying the telephone bill was not substantiated, Mkhwebane said.

It was found that the employee was suspended for misconduct because she had violated the supply chain and treasury regulations which resulted in the legislature incurring irregular expenditure.

In her recommendations, Mkhwebane said the speaker of the legislature must review sections of policy that provide for the total allowance of combined telephone, mobile table and laptop data for members of the legislature on official trips.

She added that the legislature must take appropriate action and recover a reasonable portion of the amount spent from Masoga.

Mkhwebane said this should be done within 60 days of the report being released.

Source: News24

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