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Gauteng govt launches probe into bungled Microsoft payment

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Gauteng MEC of finance and e-government Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko.
Gauteng MEC of finance and e-government Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko.

The Gauteng Provincial Treasury department has instituted a probe into allegations that it erroneously paid US-based software giant Microsoft $20 million instead of R20 million, costing taxpayers a fortune.

This, after opposition party the Democratic Alliance (DA) yesterday said due to an act of negligence, the Gauteng Department of Treasury has lost R6 843 737.90 of taxpayers’ money, which could have bought the country 48 000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines and protected many innocent lives from COVID-19.

According to the DA, Provincial Treasury erroneously processed an amount of $20 913 793.81 instead of the rand value of R20 913 793.81 as per an e-government payment advice, for the cost of Microsoft fees.

This resulted in a debit amount of R318 307 941.79 from the e-government bank account, says the opposition party.

“This money that was lost could have also gone a long way to improving the efficiency of the Gauteng Broadband Network, which will assist our residents who are seeking job opportunities and connecting our people to government,” says the DA.

In a statement issued to ITWeb today, the Gauteng Provincial Treasury says it has noted the media reports regarding the foreign transaction incident.

According to the department, MEC of finance and e-government Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko has reported the matter to the Finance Portfolio Committee.

“The department takes the incident seriously and has, therefore, instituted an independent investigation to the matter. On conclusion of the investigation, the department will take necessary steps or actions, as deemed appropriate, in accordance with the outcomes of the independent investigation report,” it says.

The DA notes that according to Nkomo-Ralehoko, the amount to be paid to Microsoft Ireland was R20 913 793.81.

The department submitted the payment advice to Provincial Treasury, cash book and services for processing, it adds.

After the error was made, the DA says, e-government requested Provincial Treasury to recall the full amount of R318 307 941.79 from Microsoft.

The money was successfully recalled in February 2021, with an amount of R311 464 203.81, resulting in a shortfall of R6 843 737.90 because of the exchange rate, it notes.

“The lost millions could have bought roughly 48 046 Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines, which were last priced at $10 (R142.44) per dose, according to the minister of health in April.

“While the DA welcomes the investigation into this forex transaction, we believe that stronger action should have been taken and the official responsible for this should have been suspended immediately and the money recouped from the official. Consequence management is the only way in which errors like these will not happen and will send a strong message to any government official that is involved in negligence as seen at the e-government department.” 

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