JOHANNESBURG – The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) has called on the Public Protector to take action against former Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini and the department over dubious contracts which the organisation said should have been cancelled months ago.
OUTA said they believed that the contracts were irregular, not budgeted for, and were deliberately engineered to absorb surplus funds in the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa).
“OUTA also believes that former Minister Dlamini misled Parliament in her replies about these contracts to cover up Sassa’s wrongdoing,” said the non-profit civil action organisation in a statement on Tuesday.
“Her answers are not truthful, direct or transparent,” Dominique Msibi, OUTA’s portfolio manager on special projects, said.
The organisation said the contracts arose from the Project Mikondzo Event Management Services and the Integrated Community Registration Outreach Programme (ICROP), which were both run by Sassa, which fell under the Department of Social Development.
“The main beneficiary of the contracts was Azande Consulting CC, which was the only one of 23 bidders accredited as a service provider for the ICROP project and one of only two on the Mikondzo project. The ICROP price fluctuated between R393-million and R488-million in various documents, while the Mikondzo matter did not have a specific price,” OUTA said.
“OUTA tracked payments to Azande of R235-million from June 2016 to August 2017. Both contracts were advertised as calls for businesses to register for accreditation to work on these projects, using an additional Sassa database which was effectively outside the National Treasury’s Central Supplier Database.”
OUTA said Parliament immediately raised concerns but these were downplayed and ridiculed by the Minister.
The organisation said the real concern of why Sassa awarded single contracts as opposed to spreading the contracts among a group of service providers wad never addressed.
“Former Minister Bathabile Dlamini abused her power by wasting public funds and gambling with the lives of South Africa’s most vulnerable citizens: 17 million of them. Her irresponsible, unconstitutional behaviour and disregard for her responsibilities as a Minister requires strong, decisive and punitive action,” said Msibi.
OUTA said they presented the Public Protector with evidence which indicated possible maladministration by SASSA in creating and awarding these contracts.
“We appeal to the Public Protector to investigate this matter thoroughly, hold Bathabile Dlamini to account and order the service providers to pay back the stolen money,” Msibi said.
The organisation said the evidence showed that both tenders were granted without following due process and were for services which could either have been performed in-house or were entirely unnecessary.
“In October 2017, OUTA wrote to Sassa and the Ministry, calling for an investigation. An initial response from Sassa indicated that an investigation was underway but sadly no further response has been received. Sassa’s then acting CEO, Pearl Bhengu, has since been relieved of her duties,” added OUTA.