The National Consumer Commission’s (NCC) outspoken Commissioner has once again lambasted the state department that holds power over her office.
Speaking in an interview with Moneyweb last week Mamodupi Mohlala-Mulaudzi suggested that the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) has effectively put the NCC under administration while it seeks to limit the effectiveness of the office to protect business interests.
Tensions between Mohlala-Mulaudzi and the dti have been well publicised and her contract is due to expire in September.
Mohlala-Mulaudzi’s account comes after a highly reputable source in government told Moneyweb that the dti was attempting to sabotage the NCC owing both to a conflict of interest between the mandates of the two organisations and as a result of a personality conflict between Mamodupi and the dti Director General, Lionel October.
According to Mohlala-Mulaudzi a string of “investigations” launched by the dti into the NCC, as well as the imposition of stringent financial controls combined with under-funding, have undermined her office’s ability to function.
She goes as far as to claim that controls imposed by the dti are in breach of Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).
These included a monthly, as opposed to quarterly, budget allocation which have since been extended to include limitations on how the commissioner is allowed to spend her money.
“What they have decided to do is to give us our allocation on a month by month budget … When they realised that this didn’t (influence) the work of the Commission they changed their tact and said ‘they are only going to give us money for certain restricted items’.”
These “restricted items” are said to include basic expenses such as salaries and cleaning services but exclude money for legal fees and consultants according to Mohlala-Mulaudzi.
Where such extraneous expenses are incurred the NCC is then required to invoice the dti, motivating the reasons for the spending.
However, said Mohlala-Mulaudzi, the last set of invoices sent to the dti two weeks prior to the interview, have still not been paid.
As the PFMA requires state bodies to repay suppliers within 30 days, the lag in payment as a result of the measure is forcing the NCC to breach dictates of the act.
Further, “the dti is flouting the provisions of the PFMA because what they are doing is going and procuring goods on behalf of an entity which in law should be a separate legal entity and we should go and do our own procurement,” she said.
“I would like to challenge the dti to indicate which other entity has been subjected to this kind of practice …
“It can only point to the fact that we are stepping on toes … (and) we may be making noises that are making business uncomfortable.”
When asked to comment on the matter, the dti provided Moneyweb with a copy of a letter authored by October in dated March last year and addressed to Mohlala-Mulaudzi, in which it was advised that dti is compelled to ensure that the NCC has “implemented effective, efficient and transparent financial management and internal control systems before any funds can be transferred.”
The dti did not respond to further questions at the time of going to print.