POLITICAL NEWS - The Democratic Alliance (DA) wants National Treasury to urgently implement measures to stem the alleged tide of corruption in the procurement of Covid-19 goods in government departments and municipalities. The party called on Finance Minister Tito Mboweni to urgently implement immediate accountability measures.
DA spokesperson on cooperative governance and traditional affairs, MP Haniff Hoosen, said: “In the first incident, the Naledi local municipality [allegedly] spent R1 265 for each of the 20 FFP1 dust masks that it purchased at a total cost of R23,500. These masks normally retail at around R189.75, while a box of 20 costs R9.49 per unit.
“The Eastern Cape education department [is believed to have] spent approximately five times the normal price for substandard personal protective equipment [PPE], amounting to millions, while there are still schools that have not received the required PPE.
“KwaZulu-Natal’s social development department has reportedly spent R22 million on 48 000 blankets [about R460 per blanket]. This, while its education department [allegedly] spent just over R422 million paying inflated prices for poor-quality PPE and related material for Grades 7 and 12 pupils returning to schools.
“The thermometers, purchased for R2,500 each, could not be used as they had no batteries. It also [allegedly] spent R28,000 on a 5,000-litre static tank, which should cost no more than around R5,500,” said Hoosen.
The OR Tambo district municipality speaker is believed to have received invoices to the amount of R4.8 million from Phathilizwi Training Institute for door-to-door activities during Level 4 lockdown. The municipal manager was suspended five days after he allegedly refused to pay the invoices and requested information on the methodology of the work done.
The Chris Hani district was found to have paid R175,000 for PPE from IC Bane Trading, which was allegedly owned by a politically connected businesswoman. Hoosen said an investigation had been launched into claims that overpriced mielie meal included in food parcels distributed in Butterworth in the Eastern Cape were infested with maggots.
The premier of the province is believed to have removed a guesthouse in Cala from the list of quarantine facilities after it was exposed that it is owned by the daughter of MEC for transport Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe.
Hoosen added that an investigation had also been launched into the transport department after procuring hand sanitiser at inflated prices.
The Dr Beyers Naude municipality was believed to have diverted funding meant for drought relief to pay for Covid-19 interventions: “The [Auditor-General’s] report showed the municipality could only account for R5 million of the R30 million received.”
Hoosen disclosed that the OR Tambo municipality’s acting municipal manager had laid criminal charges against his now suspended predecessor, related to financial mismanagement of R168 million. The money was believed to have been linked to water and sanitation programmes.
“These are only a few examples,” he said. “Those municipalities and departments that have been exposed should not be allowed unencumbered access to money that will ultimately only line the pockets of corrupt officials.”
The DA wants Mboweni to create a special inspector-general in Treasury to prevent and probe corruption related to Covid-19 relief, recovery and stimulus funding. “Despite having a list of goods and suppliers that Treasury had prenegotiated with to keep prices down, certain provisions give dishonest officials wide berth to exploit the emergency procurement waiver and engage in unscrupulous supply chain abuse,” he said.