The Eastern Cape provincial treasury, which is investigating R1.2 billion worth of Covid-19-related tenders that were awarded to 562 suppliers, has declined to make its consolidated report public.
This after the Western Cape provincial treasury became the first in the country to release a procurement disclosure report.
The report, which details all personal protective equipment (PPE) procurement and expenditure in the Western Cape from April 1 to June 30, will be made available on a monthly basis on the provincial treasury website.
The release of the report by the Western Cape government comes after the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) confirmed that it was investigating 90 companies in the Gauteng health department that allegedly benefited from Covid-19-related tenders worth more than R2.2 billion.
SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said they were receiving reports and tip-offs about corruption from all over the country every day, but said he could not divulge any details because investigations were ongoing.
In the Eastern Cape, the office of the premier directed the provincial treasury to investigate all Covid-19 procurement allegations levelled against state organs and/or individuals after receiving numerous complaints of wrongdoing from members of the public.
“Please note that a consolidated report which reflects a provincial picture on this matter bears sensitive and confidential information, and therefore cannot be shared with external stakeholders,” said Pumelele Godongwana, the Eastern Cape treasury spokesperson.
“However, as at July 22, we can confirm that provincial departments and public entities in the province have placed orders for PPE and other Covid-19-related requirements to a rounded total value of R1.2 billion through a total of 562 suppliers that have received orders, of which 457 (81.3%) are Eastern Cape-based.”
He said treasury’s investigation would ensure that all transactions triggered by Covid-19 in the province would be reviewed for compliance, while at the same time coordinating the task with other law enforcement agencies to avoid duplication and hopefully bring offenders to book.
“If any member of the public has information about these matters, we appeal to them to come forward and hand it to the provincial treasury or the office of the premier’s anti-corruption hotline.
“We promise to maintain the strictest confidentiality, in line with the Protected Disclosures Act 26 of 2000,” said Godongwana.
The premier of the Eastern Cape, Oscar Mabuyane, said corruption in the province placed an extra burden on efforts to reverse the socioeconomic development backlogs.
“This will no longer be a defining feature of Brand Eastern Cape,” said the premier.
“I can assure the people of our province that our provincial administration will not be embroiled in a Covid-19 pandemic malfeasance scandal. Not on my watch.”
How small businesses lose out
Nyiko Rikhotso, from the Value Chem Medical Group, which was contracted by the Limpopo department of health to supply urgent Covid-19 supplies such as non-contact infrared digital thermometers and surgical masks, says he hasn’t been paid by the department, despite numerous attempts to reach it.
Rikhotso, who also wrote to the Public Protector’s office, told City Press that it was hard for small business owners, who depend on small deals like the tender he received, to continue operating if they weren’t paid by the government departments which were supposed to be helping them.
“We were appointed to source and deliver the Covid-19 essential supplies on an urgent basis during the month of April. But the conditions we were appointed on weren’t conducive, to say the least. It was as if we’d been set up for failure. That’s where this whole matter took off and people started to make things difficult for us.
“We were blocked from delivering some supplies, but we did manage to deliver others. Yet we still haven’t been paid. We’re still sitting with over 1 million surgical masks that we’re being prevented from delivering for reasons known only to the provincial government in Limpopo,” said a frustrated Rikhotso.
He said that if corruption was allowed to continue unchecked in South Africa, small businesses would collapse and loyal employees and their families would continue to suffer.
“Our government, at every opportunity, preaches about saving jobs and empowering small businesses, but here this monster department is doing the opposite, because they’re not benefiting from us getting this deal,” said Rikhotso.
“Why are they allowed to discriminate against our small company? We were and still are the lowest in terms of prices, whereas other companies were allowed to charge government exorbitant prices.”
The spokesperson for the MEC, Thilivhali Muavha, said Rikhotso should follow up with the people that he signed the contract with, even if it means going to the highest level.