City to spend R22m on party for el­derly

Allegations of cor­rup­tion re­gard­ing ten­ders sur­face again

Sunday Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - NABEELAH SHAIKH AND SIPHELELE BUTHELEZI

THE ethek­wini Mu­nic­i­pal­ity has not said how the R22mil­lion it has bud­geted for the city’s an­nual se­nior cit­i­zens pro­gramme, which is es­sen­tially a year-end party for pen­sion­ers, will be spent.

With De­cem­ber a few weeks away, allegations of ir­reg­u­lar ex­pen­di­ture and cor­rup­tion re­gard­ing the pro­gramme have sur­faced again, as they did in the past two years.

This week, city man­ager Sipho Nzuza con­firmed that the allegations had been re­ferred to the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s in­tegrity in­ves­ti­ga­tions unit. A whis­tle-blower pre­sented in­for­ma­tion per­tain­ing to cor­rup­tion to­talling mil­lions, re­lated to sup­ply chain man­age­ment pro­cesses for the pro­gramme.

The pro­gramme is held ev­ery year close to the fes­tive sea­son with the aim of treat­ing se­nior cit­i­zens to a spe­cial day on which they re­ceive food ham­pers, a meal for the day and en­ter­tain­ment.

Al­most 66 000 se­nior cit­i­zens, across the city’s 110 wards, ben­e­fit from the pro­gramme. The Sun­day Tri­bune has seen emails where a whis­tle-blower al­leged that the award­ing of ten­ders for the 2017 event was be­ing de­layed in­ten­tion­ally.

The whis­tle-blower al­leged that a last-minute award would be made to a pre­ferred com­pany, which would leave other bid­ders pow­er­less to ap­peal the ad­ju­di­ca­tion process.

“In the past the ten­der doc­u­ment made pro­vi­sions for more than one ser­vice provider to be awarded. How­ever it has since been amended, the ten­der doc­u­ment is drafted in a way that only one com­pany could pro­vide all the rel­e­vant ser­vices, which ben­e­fited a par­tic­u­lar com­pany,” the whis­tle-blower al­leged.

The source also al­leged that in 2014 and 2015 there was ir­reg­u­lar ex­pen­di­ture to­talling more than R2m linked to the hir­ing of mar­quees in 74 wards.

It is al­leged that those wards did not re­quire the use of mar­quees be­cause par­ties were be­ing hosted in com­mu­nity halls, which bore no cost to the mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

The whis­tle-blower also al­leged that ser­vice providers sup­plied and used lower qual­ity prod­ucts yet they billed the city for ex­pen­sive brand items.

“They did not sup­ply reg­u­lar brands which the se­nior cit­i­zens were ac­cus­tomed to re­ceiv­ing in the past. Last year, the chick­ens that were sup­plied were cheap im­ports from Brazil and the rice was also an un­pop­u­lar brand,” al­leged the whis­tle-blower.

Demo­cratic Al­liance Chief Whip, Sharon Hoosen, submitted ques­tions to Nzuza last week re­gard­ing the allegations. She said it was not the first time that such allegations had been made about the han­dling of the pro­gramme.

Re­port

Hoosen said in 2014, a re­port com­piled by for­mer city man­ager Sbu Sit­hole per­tain­ing to allegations of pos­si­ble col­lu­sion be­tween of­fi­cials, coun­cil­lors and sup­pli­ers, had been drafted, but it had never been tabled be­fore the city’s ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee.

“We have re­quested for this re­port on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions but it was never pre­sented. Had that re­port sur­faced, the city could have taken cor­rec­tive mea­sures to avoid fur­ther fraud and cor­rup­tion,” said Hoosen.

City spokes­woman, Tozi Mthethwa, de­nied the allegations, but con­firmed that the sup­pli­ers and con­trac­tors had not been ap­pointed for this year’s pro­gramme.

She said it had been pro­posed that the event be held at the end of Novem­ber.

“A pub­lic process has been fol­lowed in line with our sup­ply chain man­age­ment (SCM) pro­cesses.

“The ten­der process closed three weeks ago and is cur­rently be­ing eval­u­ated,” said Mthethwa.

About ten­der doc­u­ments be­ing ma­nip­u­lated and the use of spe­cific brands, Mthethwa said the city’s ac­tions were in line with their SCM pol­icy.

“This is to en­sure that a wider mar­ket is reached. It is also to en­sure com­pet­i­tive­ness,” said Mthethwa.

Mthethwa de­nied the allegations re­lat­ing to the ir­reg­u­lar ex­pen­di­ture for hired mar­quees and said pay­ments were made only where mar­quees were used.

“Mu­nic­i­pal halls were used where pos­si­ble and mar­quees were used only in spe­cific wards,” said Mthethwa.

With re­gard to the re­port into the se­nior cit­i­zens pro­gramme, Mthethwa said the rec­om­men­da­tions of the re­port were taken into ac­count and all of them were im­ple­mented.

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