Education given damning AG report

The provincial education department, which obtained the worst audit outcome in the province in the 2016-17 financial year, has flouted a number of procurement policies and processes in the year under review.

This is according to provincial auditor-general Sithembele Pieters in his latest assessment report on the department’s finances which is contained in the department’s 2016-17 financial year annual report.

In his report, Pieters found the troubled department, which accounts for the lion’s share of the provincial budget, awarded tenders without soliciting quotations to suppliers that did not declare they were working for the state, while some had outdated tax certificates.

The AG also discovered that goods and services with a transaction value of more than R500000 were procured by the department without it obtaining the required price quotations from service providers, as required by Treasury regulations.

It was also found that the department did not apply with the preference point system in all procurement of goods and services above R30000 as required by the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act.

According to the AG, some contracts were awarded to bidders based on adjudication criteria that differed from those stipulated in the original invitation for bidding, while other tenders were given to bidders that did not score the highest points during the evaluation process.

The AG further found that construction contracts were awarded by the department to contractors that were not registered with the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB), while IT-related goods and services classified as mandatory, were not procured through SITA as required.

“Sufficient appropriate audit evidence could not be obtained to determine whether persons in the service of the department who had a private or business interest in contracts awarded by the department, failed to disclose such interest,” said the AG.

Recently, the department was hauled before the Bhisho legislature’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) where committee chair and UDM MPL Max Mhlathi told them “the flouting of procurement processes promotes corruption in the public sector”.

Mhlathi also wanted the department to explain what corrective measures had been put in place to curb the recurrence of such, and what action was taken against those responsible departmental officials.

In his report responding to the AG’s findings and Scopa concerns, the department’s superintendent-general Themba Kojana said he had “justifiable reasons” for the “single source” selection and the use of specific suppliers.

He said the approval for deviation was obtained from his office.

“These suppliers were selected taking into account their operational capacities and the requirements of the department after the market had been tested,” he said.

Kojana added his department awarded contracts to suppliers that did not score the highest points in a particular contract because the two suppliers with the highest points did not have “the correct level of expertise” as per the specification criteria.

“In instances where the awards related to actual construction contracts, management partially agreed with the finding.

“This is because at the time of testing the awards, the contractor’s registration with the CIDB had expired although at the time of the award, that contractor was registered with the CIDB,” he said.

The declaration of interest documents, Kojana conceded to Scopa, had been signed after the procurement had taken place in some instances. He could not be reached yesterday for further comment. —

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