City of Joburg claims it was investigating R80m PPE tender fraud before story broke, Newsline

Johannesburg – The City of Joburg has defended itself against the allegations of tender fraud regarding personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts of R80 million, saying it had conducted its own investigations even before the story broke as headline news earlier this week.

The opposition DA said the fraud could amount to as much as R600m. A leaked internal audit was made public when irregularities were uncovered.

However, Joburg mayor Geoff Makhubo said the city had been conducting its own investigations since April. From the onset, Makhubo said he had told officials the city would adhere to strict supply chain management process in the wake of the pandemic and that any irregularities would be investigated and acted upon.

“To this end, and in line with the commitments made to transparency and good governance, the city had shared with the council the detailed reports on procurement and expenditure related to Covid-19 within the city. However, the council meeting, scheduled for September 29, and which was to have considered the latest update on the irregularities, was postponed,” he said.

“It is in keeping with the above spirit that the city had established the emergency procurement compliance plan from April 1 to manage the emergency expenditure, which included the establishment of an emergency expenditure compliance and monitoring committee.

“As a further intervention to guarantee compliance, the city requested the internal audit and a special audit on all Covid-19 related procurement and adherence to the city’s supply management policies and processes.

“The leaked report is a draft status update that will be presented to the mayoral committee today for consideration and action.

“As the government of local unity, we will spare no effort in acting against maladministration, corruption and fraud. Once the report is finalised and presented, residents and ratepayers can rest assured that we will take action against any persons found to have contravened the policies and processes that govern procurement in the city.

“The report will be shared with the auditor-general and with law enforcement agencies should there be evidence of malfeasance and criminality. It is also our commitment to share such information with the council, as has been practice with all matters relating to Covid-19 and related procurement,” he said.

The auditor-general, in his 2019/20 audit report, decried the lack of consequence management for financial misconduct within the city over the past financial years and that was a trend the current administration is committed to abolish and overturn, he added.

The Joburg DA, however, said this R80m tender fraud was the tip of the iceberg. Preliminary reports from internal audits put total expenditure at more than R600m (as of July 17), of which over R400m (70%) has been flagged as highly suspicious.

DA Joburg caucus leader Leah Knott said to date there has been no comprehensive report presented to the council. Furthermore, urgent questions to the mayor on Covid-19 expenditure were deliberately blocked by the Speaker on the “ridiculous” grounds that the mayor was not a member of his own mayoral committee, she said.

“Clearly, the ANC is closing ranks around a major scandal which has been brewing for months. We have written to the Special Investigating Unit requesting a full investigation which will no doubt uncover the full extent of the theft by the ANC government. These funds should have been used to help the most vulnerable during this tragedy, not line the pockets of the political elite.”

The Star