- The department says it has opened criminal cases and suspended a number of high-ranking officials over the procurement of personal protective equipment.
- Besides the vital PPE, the items involved included blankets, sanitisers, wet wipes, soup and towels.
- Following media reports, an investigation was launched and a report recommended disciplinary action against the acting head of department, acting supply chain manager, cluster chief directors and supply chain management officials.
The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Social Development has opened criminal cases and suspended a number of high-ranking officials over the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as blankets and soup.
"The MEC for social development, Nonhlanhla Khoza, has announced the suspension of officials implicated in the procurement of blankets and PPE," a statement said.
"This follows a damning forensic investigation report conducted into the procurement of the goods."
The officials are accused of contravening sections 45, 81 and 88 of the Public Finance Management Act and face misconduct charges.
"The investigation was prompted by a number of allegations that were reported in the media. The provincial executive requested provincial treasury to conduct a forensic investigation into the alleged irregularities," the statement added.
News24 reported last week that KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala revealed there had been irregular expenditure amounting to nearly R30 million for PPE and blankets.
Only 4 982 blankets out of 48 000 were distributed as of 8 May.
Speaking to journalists at the eThekwini Disaster Management Centre, Zikalala said there was R13 630 229.50 in irregular expenditure for PPE and an "approximate financial loss to the department as a result of the misrepresentations amount to R15 808 000" for the blankets.
Zikalala added one person was reported to the authorities for investigation.
He said suppliers were paid in advance for services rendered, quotations were changed three times, Treasury guidelines were bypassed, and on each occasion, the quantities of the items were reduced in order to reduce the total cost of procurement.
Khoza welcomed the report and added an employee in her office was among those suspended.
"As a department, we were taken aback by the outcome of the forensic investigation report, as presented by Premier Sihle Zikalala.
"The information unearthed by the investigation points to the high level of recklessness by officials tasked with safeguarding taxpayers' monies.
Head of department Nelly Vilakazi has been asked to ensure the recommendations of the report are implemented fully.
"We take a strong exception to corruption and maladministration, especially during this period when the people are battling the scourge of Covid-19 and the ripple effect it has on other aspects of life," the statement said.
A team - including officials from social development, the Office of the Premier and the Department of Public Service and Administration - is set to ensure the speedy implementation of the recommendations of the report.
Khoza thanked the provincial executive council, Zikalala and media for their roles in the latest development.