NATIONAL NEWS - In an interview on 702 this morning, Public Works Minister Patricia De Lille made the stunning admission that 3,700 employees of the department of public works are doing business with the same department.
Interviewer Bongani Bingwa asked if former state employees should still do business with government, and in response, De Lille said that the special investigating unit (SIU) had discovered that thousands of her department’s employees were in fact currently doing so.
“The SIU has already reported to me that more than 3,700 employees in my department are doing business with the department and in some instances, this is not being declared,” she said.
“People within the department who have their own companies, 300 of them who are also doing business with the department,” she added.
De Lille says it was complicated to determine whether these 300 companies were doing “due diligence”, and that it was a “real, real problem”.
Bingwa was discussing a report in the Sunday Times which revealed that De Lille would be laying fraud charges against the company contracted to handle the state funerals of Madikizela-Mandela, Zola Skweyiya, and Billy Modise, after it was discovered these cost taxpayers R76 million.
“The basis of our findings of our internal investigations into corruption units, and also the [auditor-general] findings really is that an amount totalling about R27 million was paid to the service provider under circumstances where the invoice unit price of items differed from the unit prices which were contracted for and tendered for,” De Lille said.
“Another amount of R33 million was invoiced for and paid to the service provider but did not appear as contracted items in the tender documentation.
“The last one was an amount of R12.4 million was invoiced for and paid for goods delivered, however, we cannot find any evidence that the department had requested any of these items.”
De Lille said the investigation was started by her predecessor, minister Thulas Nxesi, and has resulted in two middle-ranking officials and two senior officials being removed from their positions for allegedly “approving and supporting irregular expenditure”.
Sammy Mashita, project manager of the company accused of irregularity, Crocia, responded to the allegations by telling the Sunday Times he “dared” the department to sue him as he could prove the department agreed to pay R274 million for the company’s services. He claims the R76 million was not irregularly spent.
“They must not blame us for their stupidity and not putting out a proper tender. We got lucky and rode this luck. There was nothing sinister about how we got this tender and all invoices and signed contracts are legally binding,” he told the Sunday Times.
“The R76 million is not irregular. It would have been irregular if no due process was followed or overpayments were made. We bid and won the tender fairly.
“They must take us to court. We will fight them all the way and demand the R274 million, which is what they would have originally paid us,” he said.
In response, De Lille told Bingwa: “It is correct the service provider was appointed through a due tender process,” and that there was “massive negligence among officials of the department”.
However there are still “things the service provider must answer for”, such as the alleged invoicing for goods at different prices to those which they were contracted for, and the invoicing of items the department allegedly did not request.