NEWS & ANALYSIS

DoE: Officials must start implicating their political handlers – DA KZN

Imran Keeka says dept is a cauldron of corruption, in response to shock audit findings

DoE shock audit findings: Officials must start implicating their political handlers

10 September 2020

Scathing findings by the Auditor-General (A-G), following alleged irregularities around expenditure by the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Department of Education (DoE), have exposed shocking levels of corruption in terms of Covid-19 related tenders.

The revelations, glossed over by provincial Education MEC, Kwazi Mshengu during an Education Portfolio Committee (EPC) on Tuesday, emanate from details released by the A-G and include observations of non-compliance with disaster management instruction notes and irregularities in terms of PPE pricing. This in spite of measures put in place by the National Treasury to facilitate emergency procurement during the pandemic, as well as the declaration of a national state of disaster in order to avoid abuse of the supply chain management system.

In KZN, the audit found the following transgressions, amongst others;

- That the KZN DoE procured some PPE items at prices higher than those recommended in Treasury instruction notes, which states that institutions may only procure from other suppliers as long as the prices are equal to or lower than the prices recommended as the upper limits. This has resulted in a possible irregular expenditure of approximately R316 990

- That the quantities of PPE ordered, invoiced and paid for by KZN’s DoE did not match the quantities delivered by a supplier, which is likely to result in a total estimated loss of R61 813

- That the DoE only received two written quotes – rather than the regulatory three – when procuring latex hand gloves to the value of R160 770. There was also no recorded approved deviation, which goes against Treasury Regulations and is therefore deemed to be irregular expenditure

- That quotes for hand sanitizers to the value of R45 627 were obtained and evaluated from three service providers, two of whom were not registered on the central supplier database – again, irregular expenditure

- That contracts totalling R521 867 were awarded to two service providers who were not tax compliant at the time of the award. Again, this goes against Treasury Regulations and is deemed to be irregular expenditure

- That quotes totalling R491 625 were received from two related suppliers, one of which was awarded the contract, while the suppliers have the same addresses and are owned by the same person. This is indicative of possible cover quoting and goes against Treasury Regulations

- That 20 B-BBEE points were allocated to a service provider who was awarded two contracts totalling R550 119. However, there was no B-BBEE certificate to confirm the level in the information submitted for audit. This is contrary to regulations in terms of the Preferential Procurement Regulations of 2017 and is deemed to be irregular expenditure and;

- That PPE ordered, invoiced and paid for by the DoE did not match the quantities delivered by the supplier, which is likely to result in a total estimated loss of R61 813. The DoE has since indicated that the supplier had agreed to deliver the shortfall at no additional cost.

The DA has long maintained that the province’s DoE is a cauldron of corruption. In fact, we regard the PPE and other procurement fraud claims as the tip of the iceberg.

While we welcome the recent suspension of two officials - who are believed to hold Director level posts within the Department - it is difficult to comprehend that despite the numerous allegations listed above, only they have been suspended within the entire DoE.

It is clear that the time has come for officials to start implicating their political handlers in the event that they exist and if they are being made scapegoats for them. It is unrealistic to believe that this level of fraud and corruption begins and ends with officials.

Of considerable concern is MEC, Kwazi Mshengu’s own inability to take swift action and institute disciplinary action within his own Department and that it has been left to the A-G to point out the irregularities and alleged corruption.

This is clear evidence of a leadership crisis where the Accounting office, HOD Dr EV Nzama, continues to seemingly enjoy protection from being held accountable by those who have deployed him to his position, even with such malodourous skulduggery going on right under his nose.

The A-G has made extensive recommendations as a result of the audit. The DA remains committed to keeping a close watch on the DoE in order to ensure that they are followed through. The wholesale looting of public money must end. The citizens of our province will have so much more made available to them if there is less stealing of public funds. This can and must be stopped at the ballot box.

Issued by Imran Keeka, DA KZN Spokesperson on Education, 10 September 2020