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MBABANE – Despite a Cabinet decision calling upon all ministries to cut down on spending, the Office of the Auditor General purchased furniture worth about E1 million during the 2019/2020 financial year. 

The House of Assembly in February this year, also made a resolution that no furniture should be purchased by any ministry or department because of the current financial challenges faced by government.  

As a result, a budget request to purchase furniture for the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Thuli Dladla, was cancelled by the Finance Sessional Committee. 

However, as recently as March 2020, the AG’s office purchased furniture worth E506 250 from Burco General Supplies, according to one of the order forms and delivery note from the suppliers. 

The current AG is Timothy Matsebula.     

Some of the furniture, according to some of the employees at the AG’s Office, is lying unused in the conference room at the AG’s offices at Dlanubeka. 

However, in justifying the furniture which is lying idle, the AG’s Office, in its responses to a questionnaire, stated that it was in the process of filling various vacant posts and the furniture was for allocation to the new officers.

However, according to well-placed sources, Cabinet granted authority to fill the vacant key positions within the AG’s Office early in 2019, after the time frame (March 31, 2019) passed without the vacant posts being filled. 

An extension was granted, which ended on June 30, 2019 and a waiver was again granted, but to date, positions have not been filled except for one (DAG II). 

The furniture includes nine executive leather mid-back swivel arm chairs, 33 executive leather chairs, 36 supervisors desks and six manager desks, with black leather padded in lays. 

According to the delivery note, the furniture was delivered on March 19, 2020. 

Meanwhile, in November 2019 the AG’s Office also bought furniture worth E483 680.57. 

According to the delivery note, one of the purchases made was a black leather chair with a high back which on its own cost E27 285. 

The AG’s Office was asked why the furniture was so expensive and if it reflected good economy and efficiency as required under the Audit Act of 2005? 

It was further asked to justify the cost of about E1 million spent on furniture in a period of national economic crisis, when every cent counted and asked, for example, why a single chair had cost the taxpayer about E27 000.  

In response, the AG’s Office, through its Communications Officer, Bongile Mavuso, stated that: “When acquiring goods and services, the value for money was always considered and prioritised by the office.” 

She stated that the furniture purchased was executive in nature and comprised a number of units, including a mini-boardroom table with six chairs, a desk and six lockable cabinets for keeping confidential records and the prices were approved through government processes for supply of office furniture.

“Economy, efficiency and quality were considered in the decision to buy the furniture. Thus, quality and durability of the furniture outweighs the cost,” she said.

According to one of the delivery notes with quotations, the six meeting chairs cost about E21 995 each and in total about E131 970 was spent. 

There was also E12 250 of the taxpayers’ money which was used to purchase a Vista meeting table, including an abacus bookcase on which E43 329 was spent.                     

Some of the employees at the AG’s Officer were of the view that the spending of so much government funds on the Auditor General, Matsebula’s own office, was not economical, especially because of the country’s fiscal position. 

It was reported that the old furniture, which had been used by the former AG, Phestecia Nxumalo, was allegedly still in good condition, but was left at the old AG’s Office building for a period of about five months and it was only collected after one of the management officers raised concerns to the AG about it.   

The office furniture was only removed from the old government building in January 2020 and is currently also kept at the Dlanubeka Building. 

In response about the old furniture, Mavuso stated that it was moved from the said building due to its dilapidated state to smaller offices. “As such, the current office space cannot accommodate all the furniture and documents that were previously accommodated in the old building,” she stated. 

It was further reported that the current office space occupied by the AG’s Office was a temporary structure and they still hoped for a more permanent solution. 

“Further, the existing office furniture allocated to current staff was damaged and worn out as a result of logging in the previous office space and there is need to replace it,” Mavuso explained in her written response. 

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