Woman Walking on Pathway While Strolling Luggage
Woman Walking on Pathway While Strolling Luggage - Representational Image. Oleksandr P/Pexels.com

Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille announced on Monday that R35 million, linked to irregular payments made for services not provided, has been given back to SA Tourism, the official tourism marketing agency of South Africa and an entity of the Department of Tourism..

These payments were made by both the South African Tourism's US and South Africa offices, the country's official agency for promoting tourism. SA Tourism has hub offices in important countries to help officials connect with key partners in performing their duties of promoting and marketing South Africa as a top travel destination.

"I was recently informed by SA Tourism that there had been a number of irregular payments and invoices noted, which do not meet the definition of compliant and valid or internal control verification standards," Lille said, SA News reported.

She added, "A number of irregular invoices were created about three days before the previous financial year end, which ended on 31 March 2023 and processed piecemeal to override banking controls."

The minister clarified that the executives who are not working with the agency anymore processed these payments from the United States and South Africa offices of SA Tourism at the end of March 2023.

These irregular payments were discovered during a review by SA Tourism, which "confirmed that a significant portion received by a media agency during March 2023 and signed off by the then Acting Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operations Officer and the then Acting CEO were for services not yet rendered at the time of disbursement."

The entity that provided the services was notified about the payment, which was approved by the former Acting Chief Financial Officer, Acting Chief Executive Officer, and the then Chief Operating Officer of SA Tourism. However, later it was discovered that services were not provided in exchange for those payments.

Lille pointed out that these irregular payments are completely shocking and unacceptable that officials who are trusted with the funds, act with such contempt of public finance laws and regulations, stressing that this matter won't be left unaccounted.

"We are relieved that all the money has been recovered from the irregular payments. I can also confirm that the Auditor-General of South Africa is in the process of finalizing a delegation from the AG's office to do an audit on the SA Tourism New York office," she concluded.

Tourism Minister's statement came just one week after Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana launched the Corporation for Deposit Insurance (CODI) to improve South Africa's financial regulatory structure.