“Special Investigating Unit hot on the trail of Eastern Cape pandemic pillagers” is a daily dispatch article that show cases some of the impact that the Eastern Cape Bonafides Forum has had in fighting corruption. Read the original dispatch article here.
Crooked officials and business people who exploited the Covid-19 crisis and plundered millions meant for food, emergency shelter and virus protection equipment are being red-flagged by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).
A number of Eastern Cape government officials are at the forefront of investigations by the SIU, which is expected to uncover more details of how the officials and companies colluded to bleed the state coffers via massive PPE tenders which were then cynically enacted to provide the bare minimum of service, or nothing at all.
The unit has now recommended that disciplinary action be taken against some officials who were implicated in a number of transgressions, including failiure to declare involvement with companies awarded PPE tenders, flouting of supply chain policies, corruption and fraud.
Some of the highlighted matters have been referred to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and police for further investigation and prosecution.
Officials who are to face disciplinary hearings include a junior official and an intern from Amatola Water Board, two middle management officials from the provincial education department, a senior management official from health, three senior management officials from the OR Tambo district municipality and one official at the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, the SIU revealed.
In a report tabled in parliament, SIU head advocate Andy Mothibi said in the Eastern Cape they were still busy investigating another 57 service providers and 61 PPE and Covid-19 emergency contracts valued at over R255m.
Mothibi told parliament that their probes into 66 service providers and 67 contracts amounting to more than R1.2bn had been finalised.
However, he said, although the SIU had already recommended that the concerned state institutions take disciplinary measures against the nine officials, such action had yet to take place.
A case involving another former official at the provincial health department, who had allegedly tried to defraud his former department of more than R23m by forging tender documents has since been referred to the NPA for prosecution, Mothibi said.
He also revealed that his unit had received allegations that another official at the provincial education department hadused her sister’s company to obtain a R2.8m contract for the supply of PPE to schools.
“It was further alleged that the same official used another company to obtain a separate PPE contract valued at R1.4m.
“The SIU investigation found that the official did use both companies to secure PPE contracts and did not declare her relationship with the owners of these two companies.
“The official also benefited from the proceeds of both contracts.
“Disciplinary action and criminal action was recommended against the official, while the SIU applied for and obtained an order in the Special Tribunal to freeze all money in the bank accounts of one of the service providers.”
Mothibi said another official at the education department had used his wife’s company to obtain a contract for the supply of PPE valued at R2.4m.
The official, Mothibi said, had declared that he was not directly involved in his wife’s business, “but the SIU investigation found evidence that contradicted this, and that the said official had solicited bribes and kickbacks from other companies that had been awarded contracts ”.
He said disciplinary action and criminal action had been recommended . Turning his focus to the education department’s controversial 55,000 Grade 12 electronic tablets contract, Mothibi said: “The SIU received an allegation that the department had irregularly made use of the Covid-19 emergency procurement and awarded a contract worth R538m for virtual classrooms and Samsung Galaxy tablets to a service provider”.
The probe found the department “hijacked ” the emergency procurement process, he said. “The investigation also found an official was the sister of the owner of the company that was awarded the contract and the official did not declare her relationship with the company.
“It was further found that the signatures on the documents submitted by the company were forged.
“The SIU successfully applied in the Special Tribunal to have the bank accounts of the four respondents frozen and to interdict the department from paying out any money.
“The SIU is seeking to recover the losses suffered by the department.” The SIU, Mothibi said, was also investigating allegations of procurement irregularities in respect of temporary housing structures that were built at a cost of R300m.
“The investigation found that the emergency procurement process was used to motivate for these structures.
“However, only 279 of the 1,800 temporary shelters were eventually built.
“The contracts of the four service providers were also extended by five months through an approved deviation. “However, the deviation was not justified.
“The SIU will recommend that civil proceedings be instituted to set aside the contracts awarded and to recover all the money,” Mothibi told parliament.
A R45m food parcel tender by the South African Social Services Agency was also investigated, with the SIU finding that the application for the parcels was “done contrary to approved guidelines and no verification was done to ensure applicants met the requirements to receive food parcels”.
The SIU, Mothibi said, had found that the appointment of two service providers was done in contravention of the constitution and national treasury guidelines. The SIU planned to institute civil proceedings to set aside the contract.