PPE suppliers paid in full a week before goods arrived

23 July 2020

An investigation in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, into the procurement of coronavirus-related PPE and blankets worth nearly R30m ($1.8m) has found numerous irregularities. 

The investigation by KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Treasury at the Department of Social Development found “inadequate and ineffective systems of internal controls”.

This included the issuing of purchase orders for PPE to 11 service providers before the accounting officer gave approval.

Had the department followed the correct processes it would have saved R2.2m ($134,396).

The investigation criticised the fact some suppliers were paid in full on 4 May 2020, while the goods were delivered a week later on 11 May. 

Province premier Sihle Zikalala described paying in advance for services not rendered as an anomaly and investigators had recommended disciplinary action be taken against officials including the chief financial officer and acting supply chain manager. 

Zikalala said the report had provided clear evidence of abuse of Covid-19 emergency procurement provisions.

When it came to the procurement of blankets the government would have saved around R16m ($1m) had correct procedures been observed.

Zikalala said suppliers had failed to supply and deliver blankets according to the specifications and misrepresented the quality and specifications of the blankets that were eventually delivered in many cases.

“The investigation found that there [were]... efforts to cover up, which included attempts to backdate submissions for awards to service providers,” he said.

“It is concerning that the investigation has revealed that prices were inflated and some service providers were not compliant in respect of documents specified in the invitation to tender.”

The premier vowed that a police investigation would be launched to investigate the “prima facie evidence of collusion between officials and suppliers”.

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