Picture: David Ritchie/ANA Pictures

Cape Town - The Sassa rot deepened after it emerged an event company benefited from an R11 million Sassa contract despite its owner being under investigation for allegedly swindling the agency of millions of rand using a different firm.

Former SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) chief executive, Pearl Bengu, on December 5, received - and approved - a proposal to fund the unbudgeted event on the same day.

This emerged as MPs in the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) on Tuesday grilled Sassa officials on the project.

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Acting Sassa chief executive Abraham Mahlangu said he would investigate why it happened.

On Tuesday, committee chairman Themba Godi pressed a KZN regional representative to answer, "Was it regular" to which she replied: “It was not.”

The contract was for three events related to beneficiary education and awareness campaigns on the new payment system in KwaZulu-Natal. Sweet Basil and Thinasonke Promotion were two of several companies appointed in December.

Sweet Basil Promotions director, Doreen Makhaye, had a R400 million contract suspended by Sassa pending an audit investigation after it had been awarded irregularly. The contract was awarded to another of her companies, Azande Consulting. Thinasonke is owned by Makhaye’s brother, Xolani.

Sweet Basil was paid R493 000 to provide catering for the public, VIPs and officials at one of the events. Thinasonke was paid R487 230 to provide chairs, generators, air conditioners and decorations in the same event.

Sources said there was no evidence supporting the submitted invoices. “There is none. She has lied before, what would stop her now? She has previously submitted inflated invoices and has been paid without supporting evidence,” one insider said. “Sassa needs to say what happened to the report because it was concluded a long time ago.”

The R4m figure for each of the three events covered costs for the marquee; flooring; mobile toilets; extras (chairs, generators, air conditioners and decorations); catering; transport; sound system; and, promotional gifts. The items cost Sassa around R490 000 each per event.

Sassa this week said it was not aware that Makhaye was also the director of Sweet Basil. The agency also admitted that Sweet Basil and Thinasonke had not declared interest in the December event, a contravention of procurement regulations.

For the events, Sassa spokesperson Paseka Letsatsi said all service providers were appointed via the proper quotation method.

It is understood that the agency’s internal audit department has concluded its probe into alleged corruption in Azande Consulting's appointment relating to a R400m three-year events contract awarded in 2016. In one year, Azande had already been paid R180m. - Additional reporting by Mayibongwe Maqhina

Political Bureau