KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)
KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

DA wants answers from KZN MEC over ‘inflated’ PPE costs

By Samkelo Mtshali Time of article published Jun 4, 2020

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Durban - The DA in KwaZulu-Natal is demanding answers from the province’s Education MEC, Kwazi Mshengu, on why his department bought personal protective equipment (PPEs) at “inflated prices”.

Dr Imran Keeka, DA KZN spokesperson on education, said in many cases the department had paid more for items that were available at cheaper prices in the open market and demanded Mshengu answer why the department had gone the more expensive route.

More than R422 million has been spent by the department to procure the PPEs, but some of the equipment, worth millions, disappeared in the Zululand, Pinetown and Umlazi districts, leaving officials scratching their heads to find solutions – with schools due to reopen on Monday.

On the procurement of PPEs at inflated prices for more than 600 schools, Keeka said despite meeting all the requirements and standards that had been set out by National Treasury’s Instruction 5, the prices paid by the department were above the going rate of some items.

“Infrared thermometers, available at between R800 and R1 000 on the open market, were purchased at a cost of more than R2 500 each. Hand sanitiser, available at wholesale prices ranging from R45 to R65 per litre, was purchased by the department at R183 per litre.

“Cloth masks, available for as little as R10 each, were also purchased by the department at a cost of R25 each. Meanwhile, 16-litre spray bottles, normally available at a cost of around R400, were purchased for R1 800 each, a mark-up of more than 400%,” Keeka said.

He said what compounded matters further was that during oversight visits to some schools last week, the DA had found thermometers which could not be used because the department had not supplied batteries.

Mshengu is set to table his department’s 2020/2021 budget today. However his spokesperson, Kwazi Mthethwa, on Wednesday said the National Treasury had given all provinces guidelines to follow in procuring quality PPEs and they had simply stuck to those guidelines.

Mthethwa said the Basic Education head of department had invited service providers to bid to provide PPEs and then gave the list to the treasury, which evaluated whether those service providers complied with the SA Revenue Service and other relevant authorities before selecting the service providers the department would use.

“The guidelines apply to all the provinces, so it’s not like KZN went and did its own thing,” Mthethwa said.

He added the department had suffered a loss running into millions with the theft of the PPEs that were meant for schools in the Zululand, Umlazi and Pinetown districts, further revealing an investigation into this was still under way.

Political Bureau

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