FINANCE Minister Trevor Manuel and Communications Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri clashed at the weekend over her management of state-owned IT company Sentech.
Manuel charged in an interview with Business Times on Friday that Sentech had falsely accused the Treasury of being stingy with taxpayers’ money.
“Sometimes we’re put under a lot of pressure,” said Manuel, who is under increasing attack from the newly powerful left wing of the ANC for strangling development by setting too-high standards for government funding.
“I want to mention one example,” he said: “Sentech goes to Parliament frequently, saying Treasury is the enemy — Treasury doesn’t give them money, so they can’t do what they have to do.”
But last year the government gave Sentech R500-million to connect 250 of the country’s 500 flagship Dinaledi schools, which specialise in maths and science, to the Internet.
Manuel said: “That is a commitment they made … six months into the year, the R500-million is on the table, it’s there. Number of schools connected? Zero.
“Where is Parliament? Who calls the minister? Who calls the DG and says: “Six months of the year have elapsed. If you’re still at zero now, you’re not going to do these things over Christmas … there’s a problem with your overseeing of Sentech,” he said.
Matsepe-Casaburri hit back in an interview on Saturday, saying Treasury had given her department less than half the money asked for to put all Dinaledi schools online.
She said the department had had to rework its plans, which was done by January, and then began to set up the infrastructure from which Dinaledi schools would be serviced.
“We had to decide which schools to connect and where it was rural schools it was much harder. We had to think about what other departments should be connected also: home affairs, multipurpose centres, libraries, police, post offices,” she said.
Matsepe-Casaburri accused Manuel of telling Sentech, which is structured as a business, to top up state funding from other sources, but said he had refused to give the company the right to borrow from the private sector.
She said he had made Sentech pass up a R800-million loan which, she said, had caused the company to miss the 3-G bandwagon and let private-sector companies reap the profit from wireless connectivity.
“We’re wrong if we do and we’re wrong if we don’t. I don’t know what else I was supposed to do. What other Mr Moneybags was I supposed to go to?”.