Officials in the Department of Social Development in KwaZulu-Natal accused of irregularities in the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) are back to their old positions.
The department announced on Tuesday that the precautionary transfer of senior officials has been uplifted. They were initially suspended, following recommendations made by a forensic investigation related to the procurement of PPE, including blankets.
In April 2023, the department had lifted the suspension of the chief directors and a director and subsequently placed them in different directorates within the department.
“This week, the department has decided to reinstate the chief directors to their previous positions within the Pietermaritzburg and eThekwini clusters, as the reasons for their suspension and precautionary transfer no longer persist,” the department said in a statement.
The officials were accused of contravening sections of the Public Finance Management Act and face misconduct charges, it added.
The statement said: “The department has diligently implemented all recommendations stemming from the forensic investigation, including opening criminal cases that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) declined to pursue. It initiated the disciplinary processes for all officials suspected of failing to adhere to protocols in the procurement of goods and services related to the PPE.”
It said the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) also conducted its investigation on the PPE procurement and discovered that some service providers overcharged the department. These service providers have reached an agreement with the SIU to pay back about R1.9 million to the department.
Importantly, all the goods required by the department from the service providers were delivered and distributed to the end-users for protection from contracting Covid-19.
“While the investigation has been concluded, the disciplinary processes are still under way. Since there are no ongoing investigations posing a threat to any evidence or witnesses, the reinstatement of the chief directors has been deemed appropriate. At present, only three officials are still undergoing disciplinary proceedings related to this matter.
“It is crucial to note that the officials were never found to have been involved in any form of corruption,” it concluded.