South Africa

Correctional services splurge: Ballooning hotel bill for acting officials now at R6 million

Solly Netshivazwaulu

The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) has shelled out more than R6 million to accommodate four officials in hotels in the Eastern Cape since 2020, despite state houses being available on prison complexes.

The Citizen reported that Lucky Mthethwa’s accommodation at an East London hotel has so far cost the department R1.4 million since he took over as acting commissioner of prisons in the Eastern Cape in May 2021.

The department has now confirmed that it is also paying for hotel accommodation of another senior official, Solly Netshivhazwaulu, and two of his office staffers.

ALSO READ: Acting prison boss racks up R1.4m hotel bill despite renovated state house being available

Brought secretaries on two acting stints

Netshivhazwaulu is acting as head of St Albans Maximum Prison in Gqeberha.

His permanent post is in Thohoyandou, Limpopo, where he is an area commissioner.

This is his second acting stint in the Eastern Cape, having acted as area commissioner for the OR Tambo District prisons in Mthatha between April 2020 and November 2020.  

On both the previous and current acting stints, he had brought two secretaries with him and they all stay at hotels at the expense of taxpayers.

Netshivhazwaulu and his two admin workers first racked up a R1 054 080 bill at Mthatha’s Garden Court Hotel after spending 244 nights during his first acting role.

Currently, the trio has been staying at Gqeberha’s Garden Court since April 2021 after the head office called upon Netshivhazwaulu once more to act as area commissioner based at St Albans Maximum Prison.

READ: EC prison boss costs department R100K by taking 40 staff to Mangaung Prison for lessons on Bester’s escape

R6.8 million spent on hotels so far

This ongoing accommodation of the three has so far reportedly cost the department R4 471 200.   

Combined, Mthethwa, Netshivhazwaulu and his team have reportedly so far cost the department R6.8 million. This excludes costs for their subsistence.

Additionally, the two support staffers use state vehicles travelling between hotel and work while Netshivhazwaulu and Mthethwa claim for using their own vehicles.

Mthethwa and Netshivhazwaulu currently receive acting allowances.

Their lengthy acting roles have been questioned by many considering government employees may only act for a period not exceeding six months in line with the Public Service Regulations policy.

Acting period extended by executive authority

But the Department has defended the three-year acting periods, saying they were extended by the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development through executive authority.

The shocking details come as a group of senior officials and the Police, Prisons and Civil Rights Union (Popcru) blew a whistle on what they termed a waste of taxpayers money by the national department.

Popcru has called a meeting with the ANC leadership in the Eastern Cape over this and a string of other complaints from prison employees.

ALSO READ: Thabo Bester: Correctional Services concedes G4S boss lost control of Mangaung prison

An impeccable insider at the department said: “There are also single quarters for the two officials, they could have stayed there. These officials are also out of adjustment in St Albans because there is an administrative secretary appointed there.”  

Department defends splurge

Approached for comment, on Thursday DCS maintained that costs for accommodating the employees in hotels is a better option compared to sheltering them in unfurnished state houses.

DCS spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said because the state houses are unfurnished, the department will be liable for the removal of furniture as well as the payment of resettlement fees.

He said this way the department avoids paying resettlement fees.

Senior management members utilise their private vehicles for official business and the department is liable to reimburse them for such business trips. 

For as long as the Netshivhazwaulu and Mthethwa remain in the acting capacities, they are entitled to submit claims for the trips undertaken, Nxumalo said.  

NOW READ: Ex-crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli gets five years in jail