Jonas Shabangu (Sabie Sands ranger) checks the thick bush for rogue lions near the village of Dumfries in the Bushbuck Ridge region. Several lion have escaped from the confines of the Sabie Sands game park concession of the Kruger Park. 300306. pic: chris collingridge

Durban - Two KwaZulu-Natal security companies have scooped lucrative Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife contracts worth more than R3.5 million to provide only four guards.

The inflated contracts see hundreds of thousands of rand channelled to two companies every month, which each provide two armed guards for parks in the province.

The average salary of a security guard barely tips the scale at about R3 000 a month. Security bosses rake in the rest.

A Sunday Tribune investigation revealed that Mosheni Communication and Bathethwa Security Services successfully bid and were awarded contracts midway through last year.

According to copies of service-level agreements between the guarding firms and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the companies will be paid more than R3.5m when the year-long contract is complete.

* Mosheni Communication, trading as an unnamed security company, is paid R126 800 a month to provide two grade C security officers to patrol Ndumo Mbangweni Park in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

* Bathethwa Security Service is paid R179 987.76 a month to provide two fully equipped grade C guards to monitor Ozabeni Park near Lake St Lucia.

According to a sliding salary scale from the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority, grade C guards receive a salary of less than R3 000 a month.

Stipulations in the service-level agreements dictate that the companies equip and arm their personnel, and provide for the set-up of 24-hour-control rooms to monitor the guards.

Companies are also tasked with ensuring their guards have no prior criminal history.

Independent sources, well placed within Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, who could not be named because they are not authorised to speak to the press, described the contracts as “inflated”.

“Essentially, Ezemvelo KZN is paying a massive amount each month for a security guard who takes home under R3 000. Where does the rest of the money go? I think the security bosses at these companies are cashing in,” said one.

He added that when the guards had reported for duty, they did so without firearms and the equipment that they needed.

“The guys arrived unarmed and we at Ezemvelo had to supply them with radios, torches and other things they needed to do their jobs. All of these costs were supposed to have been included in the contract price.”

Another source confirmed that guards had arrived without the necessary tools and that prices for the guards had been overestimated.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife spokesman Musa Mntambo contested the inflation of tenders.

“I do not believe it amounts to tender inflation. I do not know why you would conclude that it amounts to that because security companies do not only use money to pay their employees; they also have to spend money on items such as equipment, transport and other resources,” he said.

Mntambo denied his organisation had supplied vital equipment to the guards.

He said Ezemvelo KZN spent about R7m a year on private security, almost half of which went to two companies to provide four guards.

Mosheni Communication director Cyril Mkhize dismissed claims that he was enjoying massive profits with his contract.

“I don’t know what you are talking about. This contract was awarded by tender from a government department and we met the needs and stipulations. My company is accredited and I feel that someone is trying to sabotage me,” he said.

He could not be drawn to comment further, citing a confidentiality clause in his contract.

Bathethwa Security Service director Cyril Mthethwa would not comment when contacted by the Sunday Tribune before abruptly ending a telephone call.

Environmental and conservation writer Simon Bloch said the awarding of the tenders was an indictment of Ezemvelo KZN management.

“It wouldn’t surprise me. At the least, it is another of the many serious instances of wasteful expenditure and the current state of affairs at Ezemvelo.

“It smacks of corruption at the highest level where tenders like this are put out,” he said.

“The question is: were the tenders correctly advertised and procurement procedures followed? I urge the Ezemvelo board to call for the matter to be investigated by a forensic specialist. Someone is holding a smoking gun,” said Bloch.

“With all the money awarded by the Treasury for security to guard against rhino poaching, and now the Dutch postcode lottery offering R232 million, how much of these funds, which are well-intended, is being fleeced by insiders playing the crooked tender game?”

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Sunday Tribune