KZN Treasury steps in after blankets deal

2020-04-09 14:00
Picture: iStock

Picture: iStock

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The KZN Treasury will institute an independent investigation into the alleged irregular R22 million procurement of blankets by the Social Development Department for distribution to the homeless.

At his weekly briefing on Wednesday Premier Sihle Zikalala said the alleged irregularity was brought to his attention by a media report — The Witness broke the story on Monday.

Zikhalala said as a result of this allegation that the blanket procurement contracts were inflated and awarded to connected people, all future procurement related to Covid-19 in the province will be overseen by the provincial treasury.

Meanwhile, Social Development MEC Nonhlanhla Khoza has been drawn into the procurement scandal after it emerged that one of the suppliers who benefited from the multi-million rand contracts is related to a senior official in her office.

The Witness has established that Sanele Dlungele, the director of Ngome Steam Pot, one of the companies appointed to procure Covid-19 items including sanitisers and blankets, is the fiancé of Neli Bhengu, a deputy director in Khoza’s office.

Emergency procurement processes allow officials to hand-pick suppliers, and department officials dished out R40 million in Covid-19 contracts within a matter of days.

Evidence has since emerged that the emergency procurement process was used to inflate prices and appoint suppliers directly linked to the officials.

The department, which is supplying blankets, medical items and food to homeless people placed in shelters, has been buying blankets from the suppliers at close to R600 each. The average retail price of such blankets is R150.

Khoza’s spokesperson, Mhlaba Memela, who said earlier this week the MEC was looking into claims that some of the appointed suppliers had links with officials in the department, confirmed that Dlungele and Bhengu were in a relationship.

“They have been in a long-term relationship but she was not aware that he was one of the suppliers appointed by the department.” He added that neither Bhengu nor the MEC are involved in the appointment of service providers.

IFP national spokesperson and chair of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) Mkhuleko Hlengwa, warned departments that officials using Covid-19 to commit acts of corruption would be exposed.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  corruption
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