South Africa: KZN Social Development Suspends Officials

The Department of Social Development in KwaZulu-Natal has suspended a number of high-ranking officials implicated in the procurement of blankets and personal protective equipment (PPEs).

This follows a forensic investigation report conducted into the procurement of the goods.

The procured goods also included sanitisers, wet wipes, soups and towels.

Social Development MEC, Nonhlanhla Khoza on Tuesday said a number of allegations that were reported in the media prompted the investigation.

The Provincial Executive Council requested Provincial Treasury to conduct a forensic investigation into the alleged irregularities.

She said the investigation report had recommended that disciplinary action be taken against the Acting Head of Department, Acting Deputy Director-General, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Acting Supply Chain Manager, Cluster Chief Directors, and Supply Chain Management (SCM) officials.

The officials are accused of contravening, among others, sections 45, 81 and 88 of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) of 1999.

The officials are also facing charges of misconduct in terms of Chapter 7, read with various SCM prescripts.

Khoza acknowledged the work done by a team of investigators set up by the Provincial Executive Council of KwaZulu-Natal to unearth malfeasance in the procurement of goods to be used in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MEC also welcomed the investigation report and said the department would ensure that all those implicated would be held to account.

Rooting out corruption

She said that the suspension of officials, including the removal of one employee in her office shows the department's commitment that it will not tolerate corruption.

"As a department we were taken aback by the outcome of the forensic investigation report, as presented by Premier Sihle Zikalala. The information unearthed by the investigation points to the high level of recklessness by officials tasked with safeguarding taxpayers' monies," Khoza said.

Khoza said she has since instructed the Head of Department, as an Accounting Officer, Nelly Vilakazi, to ensure that the recommendations of the report are implemented to the latter.

The MEC said that the department takes a strong exception to corruption and maladministration, especially during this period, when people are battling the scourge of COVID-19 and the ripple effect it has on other aspects of life.

"We will ensure that taxpayers' money that was spent irregularly is recovered. Not only will we deal with officials, but we will also deal with companies that were involved in the process," said the MEC.

She added that the department has engaged a multidisciplinary team, comprising officials from Social Development, Office of the Premier, and the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), to ensure the speedy implementation of the recommendations of the report.

The department has also opened two criminal charges with Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks).

"One would like to thank Premier Zikalala for providing leadership on the matter and we will ensure that we complete the process by ensuring accountability for each and every cent spent. We would also like to thank members of the media for their role in the matter," MEC Khoza said.

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