DA questions alleged shift of millions by KZN Cogta to pay for royal palace upgrades

AmaZulu King Goodwill Zwelithini KaBhekuzulu opens the KwaZulu-Natal legislature in Pietermaritzburg, 3 March 2020. Picture: Twitter / @kzngov

The party says R4 million was transferred, allegedly without proper procedure, from Cogta to the office of the premier for the upgrades.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in KwaZulu-Natal has called for answers following the revelation that R4 million was transferred – allegedly without proper procedure – from KwaZulu-Natal’s department of cooperate governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) to the office of the premier, allegedly for infrastructure work at the palaces of Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini.

The DA’s member of the KwaZulu-Natal legislature Francois Rodgers: “The discovery was made by the DA during an office of the premier, royal household budget hearing held earlier this week.”

Rodgers said during the hearing, the DA raised concern around the issue.

“Meanwhile, questions posed to both departments did not receive a suitable response, with officials unsure of its intended purpose. The DA further established that there was neither a memorandum of understanding nor a service level agreement between the two departments as to the intended purpose of the R4 million,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers said one of the questions the DA had was who authorised this inter-departmental transfer.

“Certainly, Cogta’s mandate does not include any form of funding for royal household infrastructure – this is a mandate which falls directly under the office of the premier.

“Of further concern is Premier Sihle Zikalala’s indication during this year’s mid-term adjustment budget, that funding would be made available for the refurbishment of the seven royal palaces. A question by the DA to the premier’s office has now confirmed that the necessary funding will come straight from KZN’s already decreased financial contingency reserve, placing the province at further economic risk.

“With the as yet unknown economic impact of the Covid-19 on our province’s economy, now is not the time to be spending on ‘nice-to-haves’. Then there is the fact that most provincial departments have also already received cuts to their maintenance budgets,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers said it appears as if the province’s public works department is yet to undertake or complete a costing exercise for work to be carried out at the seven palaces.

“The DA expects public works MEC, Peggy Nkonyeni and her department to complete this exercise and divulge the intended cost of the project as a matter of urgency.

“The DA has long called for the implementation of a sustainable commercialisation strategy, including the agricultural operation, for KZN’s royal household. This is the only way to reduce the fiscal burden on the province.

“This is a task which was supposed to have been taken on by the royal household trust some years ago, which receives funding to the tune of R3 million annually to achieve this objective. Regrettably, to date, there has been no return on this expenditure and the royal household remains a burden on the province’s coffers.”

Rodgers said the DA called on Zikalala to remove and, or dissolve the royal household trust, return this responsibility back to his own office to save costs and to ensure that a sustainable solution is found for His Majesty the King, the Royal Household and the province of KZN.

(Compiled by Makhosandile Zulu)

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