The MEC rejected a Ford Ranger Wildtrak purchased for her, and opted to use her personal high-performance Jeep for official purposes.
The North West Premier’s office sees nothing wrong with agriculture and rural development MEC Desbo Mohono claiming more than R1 million in travel expenses in 2019/20.
Mohono’s massive claim is the result of her choosing to use her personal high-performance car for official duties, despite being allocated a state vehicle.
In his written reply to the North West legislature following an investigation by the department of community safety and transport management into the fuel claim, Premier Job Mokgoro reported the MEC claimed a total of R1.3 million for using her own Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT between From 2018 to July 2020.
A brand new Jeep Cherokee SRT is listed as costing R1,359,000 on the official Jeep South Africa website.
The MEC’s fuel claim is enough to buy a brand new Jeep SRT, according to the Jeep website.
“MEC Mohono used a private vehicle for official duties while with the department from December 2018 after a provincial cabinet reshuffle. Prior to that, MEC Mohono was MEC for tourism,” the Premier’s response to questions said.
“Since her deployment to the department of [agriculture and rural development] MEC Mohono’s claimed (R1,347,410.42) with the last claim made in July 2020.”
In response to questions in the provincial legislature last month, Mohono’s reasons for using her own vehicle were: “The department had not allocated MEC with an official vehicle.”
The department purchased a Jeep Cherokee 3.2 Limited through the department of community safety and transport management which was received towards the end of the 2016-17 financial year.
During the execution of the former MEC’s work however, she claimed it came to light that the vehicle was not suitable for all roads, particularly farm roads where she did her work.
According to an April 2020 report by the chief financial officer of the agriculture and rural development department to the North West portfolio committee on economic development, tourism, agriculture and rural development, the department solved the problem by internally purchasing a Ford Ranger Wildtrak, which is suitable for all roads.
As per requirement for official vehicles for MECs, the car’s windows were tinted and fitted with blue lights and a siren.
Mohono wasn’t interested in this car either though.
According to the CFO’s report, she “showed no interest in using the vehicle and instead opted to use her own vehicle. This matter was raised several times, and her position on the matter did not change, therefore the status quo remained.”
The purchased Ford Ranger Wildtrak meant for the MEC was instead given to the newly appointed deputy director in the head of department’s office, with the blue lights and siren removed and the registration number changed.
The issue of the Wildtrak was never raised in the investigations and there were probably reasons why she rejected the vehicle, Premier spokesperson Vuyisile Ngesi told The Citizen.
“The issue of the Wildtrak does not come up in the report.”
“She can’t reject it on her own. There are security and safety considerations taken by the South African Police Service’s protection and security services unit for any car to be used. It was probably thrown out due to the nature of the car,” Ngesi said.
The rejected Ford Ranger Wildtrak might have been the most suitable vehicle for farm terrain as compared to the MEC’s personal Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, motoring journalist Charl Bosch said.
The MEC’s personal vehicle, which is a high-performance version of the Jeep Cherokee she had claimed was not suitable for all types of roads, is even less suitable for rural terrain, Bosch said.
“A Grand Cherokee is wholly unsuitable because it has sports tyres and would never go to the same place as a Ford Ranger. The Jeep SRT is basically the upper-class Grand Cherokee. It’s the performance version of the Grand Cherokee. The Ford Ranger is more acceptable for off-road driving,” he said.
He also believes the standard SRT’s fancy rims would make it difficult to justify using that car on dirt roads, instead of the more rugged Wildtrak.
In indicating her expenses between November 2019 and March 2020, the CFO’s report showed the MEC claimed R171,580 for the four months.
The report found there were no grounds to grant her permission to use her own vehicle, as there was already a brand-new vehicle purchased as a relief VIP vehicle.
“This was never used and had only clocked less than 10,000km on the speedometer. There was therefore no need for the department to seek approval or permission for the MEC to utilise her private vehicle, as an official vehicle was readily available.”
In granting permission for her claims, the department resorted to the Ministerial Handbook of 2007, which allowed MECs to use their own vehicles and claim all distances travelled for work purposes at a tariff equal to three times the standard running and maintenance allowances, said the report.
However, the new Ministerial Handbook issued in November 2019 did not make provision for the use of personal vehicles by MECs, as it states that vehicles should instead be hired in the absence of a state vehicle.
Ngesi however could not confirm why the MEC did not opt to rent a car.
“Speak to the relevant department of agriculture. I can’t comment about that. I am speaking on behalf of the report we received as Premier’s office. There are CEOs and heads of department and people who inform the MEC on what policy says.”
“The old Ministerial Handbook, in terms of the guidelines for the use of vehicles, made provision that you can use a private vehicle. It was found that the R1.3 million was not one huge amount deposited into her account. It was based on monthly claims she was submitting for fuel and there are guidelines in terms of vehicle capacity on how much you can claim. She was within her rights to do that because she has to be reimbursed for petrol.”
“We are satisfied with the report we received from community safety and transport management,” Ngesi said.