Millions in shady tenders

2013-09-06 00:00

THE KwaZulu-Natal Health Department is investigating more than R297 million worth of tenders awarded to a number of companies suspected of having had conflict of interest relationships with officials.

This emerged when the department tabled its 2012/13 financial year report to the health portfolio committee yesterday, which showed that there were possible cases of conflicts of interest to the tune of R297 548 770.

The report, tabled by the department’s director of supply chain management, Andile Zondo, showed that 1 033 letters had already been sent to suppliers identified with possible conflicts of interest.

“Responses received are to be tabled before the irregular expenditure committee [in the interim] or the financial misconduct committee for consideration and to provide appropriate recommendation to the head of department,” Zondo said.

She said the identified suppliers had been given 14 days to explain why they should not be placed on the National Treasury’s list of restricted companies barred from doing business with the government.

A total of 989 responses had been received as part of the probe.

Zondo said the names of some companies had already been submitted for blacklisting and disciplinary action taken against officials who had been suggested in that regard.

Zondo refused to reveal the names of the companies and officials involved.

Department spokesperson Desmond Motha said the offenders could only be identified when they were blacklisted.

Committee members welcomed the investigation into the companies.

The Democratic Alliance’s Mark Steele said that the department should find a way to cancel the contracts when it found that companies had conflicts of interest.

The probe comes amid calls from some quarters to prohibit officials from doing business in an attempt to curb fraud and corruption.

“The intention is to eradicate awards to officials in the employment of the state who have failed to disclose their interests or do not have the necessary permission to conduct business while in the employment of the state,” Zondo said.

According to Zondo, the department had used various methods to identify suppliers linked to officials employed by the provincial government.

This was done through the use of officials’ identity numbers, their spouses’ identity numbers, bank accounts, addresses, telephone numbers and salary details.

“The respective accounting officers of other departments within the province have been advised of possible conflicts of interest by officials in their employment,” said Zondo.

Currently, civil servants must receive permission from the heads of department in order to provide services to their individual departments — except in the Western Cape where they are completely barred from doing business with the government.

Zondo said provincial departments were now conducting monthly verifications of all awarded tenders and payments made to identify conflicts of interest.

“Where it was found that suppliers had failed to declare such, those offers are considered non-responsive, and referred to the risk management and investigations services unit.

“Where possible conflict is confirmed, contracts are cancelled and department officials subjected to disciplinary measures,” she said.

Zondo said security contracts had already been cancelled at Grey’s and Doris Goodwin hospitals because of such concerns.

She told the committee there were problems with the manipulation of once-off contracts that required the submission of three quotes before tenders were awarded. Major tenders were not a major concern, she said.

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