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KZN Education department addresses PPE irregularities by senior officials

File Picture: Teachers and support staff deep clean and sanitise a classroom at a Cape primary school. Picture: Tracey Adams African News Agency (ANA)

File Picture: Teachers and support staff deep clean and sanitise a classroom at a Cape primary school. Picture: Tracey Adams African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 13, 2022


TWO senior officials at director level in the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education have been sanctioned for irregularities in the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE).

One of the officials has been fired and another placed on suspension for three months without pay, owing to supply chain irregularities.

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Department representatives appeared before the national portfolio committee on co-operative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) on Wednesday. They said several other employees were being subjected to disciplinary action for offences linked to procurement.

It announced in 2020 that it had suspended two officials at senior management level on allegations of fixing PPE tenders.

KZN government department representatives had appeared before the committee to brief MPs on action taken after the office of the auditor-general highlighted concerns about how the province went about procuring its PPE.

Nkosinathi Ngcobo, head of the KZN education department, briefed the committee on the action taken so far. He revealed that the department had disciplined officials, instituted civil recoveries and strengthened its supply chain processes.

The two officials tied to the Supply Chain Unit feature prominently in the report as they were linked to a string of findings that speaks of their dereliction of duty.

This was noted by the chairperson of the committee Fikile Xasa, who said “in the report it was the same officials committing the offences”.

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The irregularities that had been discovered by the auditor-general include that there had been non-compliance with National Treasury disaster management instruction notes.

The auditor-general had found that the department had procured some PPE items at higher prices than those recommended in the National Treasury instruction note, which states that institutions may use suppliers as long as prices were equal or lower than set.

He said investigations were instituted as soon as there were allegations of overpricing and the department, with the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), recovered the funds from the suppliers.

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“The auditor-general had also found that the department was invoiced and paid for R61 000 worth of PPE more than the supplier delivered and there was no evidence that the supplier delivered the shortfall to the department later.”

“The auditor-general also found that the department had awarded contracts worth over R500 000 to two companies that were not tax compliant.

“Two officials at the level of director were suspended, one has since been dismissed and another placed on suspension without pay,” said Ngcobo.

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Ngcobo said further disciplinary processes were under way.

Among the issues raised by the auditor-general was the finding that some of the materials supplied to the province were not of the required quality.

Ngcobo said going forward, companies supplying the department with goods would be required to provide samples that would be evaluated.