Civil servants score more than half a billion from tender rigging

South Africa’s civil servants have scored more than half-a-billion rand in government tenders, which were irregularly awarded to their spouses and relatives, the Sunday Times reported.

An investigation by auditor general Terence Nombembe into government officials who moonlight as business executives, found that more than 2 000 were involved in tender rigging and corruption worth more than R610-million.

Civil servants also reportedly awarded tenders to companies owned by themselves, their spouses or their relatives.

His recommendations include disciplinary action and a tightening of government procurement systems.

The report, which paints a bleak picture of corruption, misspending and abuse of public money, was presented to Parliament in April.

However, this was never formally discussed because the house was winding up ahead of the general elections, the newspaper said.

Nombembe found that between 2005 and 2007, government officials in eight provinces cashed in on tenders worth R540-million—with KwaZulu-Natal still being audited.

The remainder of the R610-million was reportedly fleeced by officials in national government.

Nombembe found that government officials in Limpopo received the lion’s share of the deals, with more than R260-million worth of tenders shared by 900 officials.

In Mpumalanga, a total of 573 employees shared contracts worth R115-million, while 70 senior officials and their spouses in government departments owned between them 72 companies which scooped tenders worth more than R20-million from the Department of Foreign Affairs.

“What we have here is not simply poor management, but a telling failure of political oversight,” said Derek Luyt, head of media and
advocacy at the Public Service Accountability Monitor—an independent organisation that monitors the mismanagement of funds.

“If senior managers and heads of department don’t take corrective action, especially when the need for it is so clearly demonstrated ... then the responsibility lies with the MECs [provincial ministers] and ministers to ensure corrective action,” he was quoted as saying.

Nombembe’s report found that government departments did not always obtain three quotes in line with regulations when awarding tenders to public servants or their spouses.

There was reportedly several cases in which officials exposed themselves to conflict of interest.

In one case mentioned in the Sunday Times, a senior official in the Department of Communications—who also chaired the tender
committee—presided over the award of a R500 000 tender to an information technology company in which his wife had an interest.

“When departments prepare lists of prospective suppliers, they should request companies to disclose whether any of their directors and shareholders are employed in government. This includes disclosures of spouses and close relatives,” said the report.

It also noted that crooked public servants charged with misconduct got off with warnings while others claim they were not aware they should have obtained approval to perform other remunerative work. - Sapa

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