The Department of Treasury in the South African province of Gauteng has reportedly lost more than R6-million ($417,719.67) after it mistakenly paid for services in US dollars instead of South African rand.
An erroneous payment of $20-million, instead of R20-million, was made as per e-Government payment advice for the cost of Microsoft service fees. This payment saw more than R318-million (around $20-million) debited from the e-Government bank account.
After the error was made and discovered, the provincial treasury recalled the full amount from Microsoft, but R6-million was lost due to a change in the exchange rate. This amount cannot be recalled from Microsoft, it simply evaporated due to exchange rate fluctuations.
Gauteng looses R6 Million of taxpayers’ money, after Provincial Treasury incorrectly processed $20 Million instead of the rand value of R20 Million for Microsoft fees.
💉| This money could have bought 48 000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines and saved innocent lives from Covid-19. pic.twitter.com/iMdEVQ1cUM
— DA Gauteng (@DA_GPL) July 6, 2021
Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko, Gauteng Finance and e-Government MEC, recently addressed the error, saying that the department prepared a payment advice document for the payment of Microsoft fees amounting to more than R20-million.
The department submitted the payment advice to the provincial treasury, cash book and banking services for processing. The provincial treasury erroneously made the payment in dollars instead of rand.
The amount was reportedly successfully recalled in February. Afterwhich, Nkomo-Ralehoko says the treasury had instituted an investigation.
“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,” says DA spokesperson Adriana Randall, quoted by News24.
“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.”
A blunder of this scale is not unusual for South Africa. A country whose finances have been mismanaged for years due to negligence and corruption. The error itself was small, but its consequences should be a galvanising moment in the provincial department’s management of finances.
To put forward payment in the incorrect currency can be speculated as either a fault in communication within the department or it could be due to carelessness with the taxpayer’s money.
SA Government Partners with Microsoft
The Department of Basic Education of South Africa partnered with Microsoft in providing digital skills training to 25,000 unemployed youth in the country.
This partnership was fueled by the Basic Education Employment Initiative (BEEI), which, the Department says, created more than 300,000 job opportunities across the country.
The initiative forms part of the broader announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa in October 2020 of a R100 billion ($7-billion) fund to create 800,000 public sector jobs in the next three years.
The training, which ran until the end of March 2021, combined virtual remote instructor-led training and self-paced online learning using Microsoft Teams.