Grace Chingoma Harare Bureau
SPORT and Recreation Minister Makhosini Hlongwane has urged the Parliamentary Committee on Education and Sport to tour some of the facilities used for the Africa Union Sports Council Region Five Under-20 Youth Games in 2014 in Bulawayo. A whooping $18 million was injected into the projects. The government pledged $24 million towards the hosting of the Games.
The large chunk of that amount, $18 million, has already been paid while the government still owes some service providers $6 million.Hlongwane has since called for a forensic audit following his tour last October of the Games facilities amid concerns that the government could have been defrauded millions of dollars from the construction and renovation of the Games facilities such as Bulawayo City Pool, track and netball courts, White City stadium and Luveve Stadium.
Last week, AUSC Region 5 debts came under spotlight when the Minister appearing before the Committee together with the Ministry’s permanent secretary, Godfrey Chipare, Principal Director Benson Dube and Director, Sport Development and Promotion, Eugenia Chidhakwa, with the government officials being asked to explain how a year and two months after the staging of the Games some service providers were still to be paid.
Emakhandeni-Entumbane legislator Dingilizwe Tshuma enquired what the government was doing to repay the Region 5 outstanding debts which have stretched for more than a year and also wanted to know whether private sponsors could settle the debt in similar fashion to how Harare businessman Wicknell Chivayo had paid what Zifa owed Belgian coach Tom Saintfiet.
In response, Hlongwane appraised the Committee of the disturbing events regarding the AU Region 5 Games and said that when he toured the facilities, the money spent and work on the ground were not tallying and there was need for an investigation.
“The government has already paid $18 million for the staging of these Games and is left with $6 million outstanding.
“We owe as the government $6 million to service providers in Harare and Bulawayo and the government has already paid $18 million for the hosting of those Games.
“I did visit the facilities, immediately after my appointment last year, the physical infrastructure in place leaves a lot to be desired.
“In fact I was shocked to believe that we spent $18 million on those facilities. I want to encourage the Committee to give us support in this area by visiting the Bulawayo swimming pool, White City Stadium and Luveve Stadium.
“The type of quality of work that was done in those places is unfavourable to the eye…. Again, like I said through you chair, I want to urge the committee to pay a visit and see if your findings are the same as ours and then we can do the sharing of notes as far as that is concerned,” said Hlongwane.
Hlongwane told the Committee that the government was solely responsible for settling the Region 5 Games and from the Ministry’s 2016 budget of $2,5 million, a chunk of $900,000 will go towards the legacy debt of the Region 5 Games.
“But certainly this is a private debt. We can’t look for the money from the private sector to settle a government debt. The government has to honour its obligations.
“From the current budget allocated, $900,000 will go towards the dissolution of that debt. But current budget is on paper, getting the money is something else,” said Hlongwane.
For this year the Ministry of Sport and Recreation was allocated $2.5 million against the $34 million which the Ministry wanted to cater for all their needs.