The environment, forestry and fisheries department has suspended eight officials on suspicion they could have been negligent, or possibly involved in fraud and corruption, over the awarding of tenders.
Department spokesperson Albi Modise said the suspension followed a forensic investigation into contracts alleged to have been irregularly awarded by the department’s Waste Management Bureau. He, however, said he could not divulge the positions the suspended employees held or which divisions they worked in.
According to Modise, during the audit of the financial statements for the year ended March 31 2019, the auditor-general (AG) identified several tenders which were irregularly awarded. These included nine tenders awarded by the Waste Management Bureau with a total multi-year contract value of more than R2.1bn and expenditure for the 2018/19 financial year amounting to more than R337m.
Minister Barbara Creecy mandated the then director-general Nosipho Ngcaba to institute an investigation to ascertain the reasons for the tenders being irregularly awarded.
Modise said the investigation needed to cover areas such as whether any losses were suffered by the department, whether the department received value for money, whether any officials or third parties had committed any acts of fraud and/or corruption, and whether any person(s) could be held liable in law for the irregular expenditure.
An independent forensic investigation company was appointed to conduct the probe.
Concerning six of the nine tenders, with a combined value of more than R1.2bn, the investigation found prima facie evidence illustrating irregular appointments arose as a result of negligence, misconduct and/or possible fraud and corruption by certain officials of the department.
Modise said the department was in the process of taking disciplinary steps in respect of misconduct identified in the report. All system recommendations outlined in the forensic investigation report will also be implemented.
Concerning the three remaining tenders, with a combined value of more than R822m, Modise said the investigation found no evidence to indicate misconduct by officials or loss suffered by the department. It was found that the department received value for money.
Modise said the department would seek condonation from National Treasury for the irregular expenditure incurred in that regard.