Clerks earn R70 000 per month

2009-09-17 00:00

CLERKS contracted to the KZN Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development Department supply chain management section (SCM) earn nearly R70 000 a month simply for faxing quotation requests to service providers.

This claim was made by National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) insiders and departmental officials, who spoke to The Witness on condition of anonymity.

The newspaper is in possession of documents alleging that the head of department, Siddiq Adam, authorised spending of R7 million without following proper procedures.

The amount was allegedly to be paid to a consortium of accounting firms to assist the department’s employees in the supply chain management section to meet their service delivery requirements.

They claimed that the R7 million tender was awarded by the department to the consortium without putting it out to open bidding and advertising it.

The department’s SCM delegation framework requires that all tenders above R500 000 must be awarded through an open bidding process.

The insiders alleged that the R7 million goes towards paying for services offered by the consultants and exorbitant amounts of money are paid to support staff deployed by the consortium in the SCM unit, although the department employs staff to carry out the same duties.

Union and departmental insi­ders allege that on June 10, the acting chief financial officer in the department, Shabeer Essa, wrote an internal memorandum to Adam, which he allegedly approved on the same day . The memorandum requested a deviation from the normal procurement process. The consortium was then appoin­ted through a single-source approach, without advertising.

The consortium’s contract is for three months. It began on June 19 and is expected to be wrapped up by Saturday.

“Clerks deployed by the consortiu­m, who are responsible for faxing quotation requests to service providers, earn R69 190 while the permanent staff members of the department, who perform exactly the same functions, earn a mere R7 000 a month. The consortium’s project managers earn R177 840 per month.”

On any given day, said insiders, the clerks receive “requests to quote” from their supervisor, including a list of service providers to quote from, and are given the te­lephone and fax details of these service providers. Upon receiving quotes from the service providers, the clerks pass them on to the supervisor, a departmental official who earns about R8 000.

The same consortium was contracted by the department to turn around the finances of the department in January this year at a cost of R20 million.

Nehawu insiders claim that revamping the SCM unit is part of the financial turnaround strategy given that the SCM is a critical part of a department’s finances. They questioned why a further R7 million was allocated to the same consortium without going to tender.

Department officials allege that some of the clerks are part of the R20 million turnaround strategy. “It is noted that six of the clerks were sourced by SCM for a period of three months … from one of the consortium firms for a rate of R14 000 per month … with more responsibilities compared to the current tender.”

They have since returned and are part of the faxing and receiving clerks’ pool and earn R69 000.

Adam said that the SCM unit did not have the capacity to handle the budget of about R400 million, and since the planting season is around the corner, the section had to be upgraded to meet service delivery needs.

According to Adam, the department is well within its rights to use a single source approach when awarding tenders.

This is permitted when a department wants to procure in exceptional cases, for instance, when a task is a continuation of previous work carried out by a service provider.

According to the CFO, the SCM unit under-spent by R123 million and by more than R300 million in 2008 and in 2007 respectively.

The SCM section, said Adam, has wasted hundreds of millions of rands in previous years by paying more than 50% above market price for goods and services.

There are instances, said Adam, where the SCM has wastefully procured goods.

The Witness is in possession of documents allegedly showing that the SCM unit procured a ton of fertilizer for R82 400 and a total of five tons for R412 000, while a ton from registered suppliers costs just R8 050. In another instance, the SCM unit allegedly procured four 20 cm wheelbarrow tyres with solid rubber for R129 960 when the normal price is about R150.

Adam said these allegations have been made against him because he is cleaning out fraud and corruption within the department and some staff at the SCM are unhappy about this.

“I am not benefiting from this. There’s alleged corruption in our SCM. The consortium is aimed at saving the department hundreds of millions of rands that are being wasted in the SCM and to add capacity. I’ve been in government for 10 years. I challenge anyone in the SCM to prove that I have even embezzled R1,” said Adam.

He said that they procured the service of clerks and project ma­nagers at an affordable rate. In normal cases, he said, clerks at accounting firms that do work for government charge between R700 and R800 an hour and the clerks in the department charge R350 an hour.

The department’s financial turnaround strategy yielded positive results as the department received a clean audit this year, added Adam.

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