Johannesburg - Former Cope MP Dennis Bloem has told the Zondo commission that the department of correctional services and Bosasa ran a "money laundering scheme" with millions wasted on outsourcing services.
Bloem was the chairperson of the portfolio committee on correctional services between 2004 and 2009. He said during his tenure his committee's oversight role was frustrating as the conduct of the department of correctional services (DCS) was concerning.
He said between 2004 and 2007 the DSC chose to outsource a number of services which included a catering contract, a TV contract, fencing contract and an access system tender. He said these contracts were all awarded to Bosasa or its subsidiary Sondolo IT.
These contracts were awarded even after the portfolio committee had raised concerns about why the department saw the need to outsource when it was capable of providing the services.
Bloem said the committee asked for a feasibility study report, but it was never provided.
He said the catering contract was the most alarming, as the department ran its own farms where it cultivated food to be used at the country's prisons.
The department paid Bosasa R240 million for three years to provide catering for a handful of the country's prisons. He said the facilities company was paid even though it never provided staff to cook for inmates. Prisoners were still required to prepare and cook meals.
"This catering tender was just a money laundering scheme. Bosasa said they would take over the kitchens and do the cooking, it was a blue lie. The inmates were still doing the cooking and it was business as usual. I am talking from experience, I visited these areas. Sondolo (Bosasa) had one office in the middle of the kitchen. Sondolo was just taking the money.
"Chairperson there was no labour from Bosasa. It was the inmates that cooked, prepared and dished out the food. We never got an answer about who was providing the food," he said.
The chairperson of the commission deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo appeared visibly shocked by the revelations.
"They were not actually doing the job? So are you telling me the department was paying Bosasa while they were providing nothing or very little?
"What we have just heard is very concerning with regards to taxpayers' money. I hope investigators can establish if even as we speak, it is still ongoing with regards to the catering contract. It may be needed to have some necessary steps taken," said Zondo.
Bloem said another contract to provide TVs to prisons was also wasteful especially because more juvenile facilities were needed due to overcrowding.
He said the DCS leadership, which included former commissioner Linda Mti and Patrick Gillingham did very little to adhere to the concerns of the portfolio committee regarding the outsourcing of correctional services units.
Bloem said the minister of correctional services at the time Ngconde Balfour was very protective of Mti and would often shield him from tough questions posed by the correctional services committee.IOL