'Sassa must act against officials who failed to distribute food parcels to struggling communities'
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Johannesburg - Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has ordered the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) to act against officials who delayed the distribution of food parcels to poor communities in four provinces.
Mkhwebane made the adverse ruling against Sassa on Friday following a complaint lodged against it by Paul Hoffman of the Institute of Accountability in Southern Africa in July last year.
In his complaint, Hoffman made the following allegations: Sassa had advertised a tender for the appointment of new service providers for the distribution of food parcels for the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Western Cape from June 14, 2019 to July 5, 2019, but that the tender was subsequently cancelled as a result of technical problems.
Sassa failed to finalise the process in 2019 and the tender was only re-advertised on January 17, 2020.
This obliged Sassa to request the previously appointed service providers to temporarily extend their services in the said provinces for a period of three months, that is for the period of September 1 to November 30, 2019.
When it became apparent that the tender process was delayed, Sassa approached the National Treasury for a deviation in the tender process to temporarily contract service providers for a further six months.
Mkhwebane said the appointment of these service providers was approved by National Treasury, but it was only concluded by Sassa in April 2020 and only for a three-month period.
She found that Sassa thus distributed no food parcels in the provinces in question from November 2019 to March 2020.
“The appointed service providers were stuck with huge stockpiles of food in warehouses, due to the uncertainty about the extension of their contracts.
“Sassa therefore failed to deliver services and the relief of social distress programmes, as a large number of households were left without food parcels during a critical time.
“In essence, Adv. Hoffman alleged that the failure or undue delay by Sassa in delivering food parcels to the poor and destitute in the six provinces from November 2019 to March 2020 was improper, constitutes maladministration and caused prejudice,” Mkhwebane found.
She said her investigation confirmed that there was undue delay by Sassa in awarding new contracts to service providers in Gauteng, KZN, Limpopo and Mpumalanga, resulting in a failure to distribute food parcels in these provinces during during November 2019 to March 2020.
“There was a lack of proper planning to execute the bid evaluation and adjudication processes in respect of Bid no 08/19/GA, the closing date of which was 5 July 2019, which was aggravated by the lack of proper internal communication between Supply Chain Management (SCM), the Bid Evaluation Committee (BEC) and the Bid Adjudication Committee (BAC) with regards to who was responsible to extend the validity period of the bid.
“The fairness in the bidding process was compromised by the fact that Sassa gave inadequate time for bidders to respond to the extension of the 90 days validity period of bids. The request to agree to an extension was only sent to the bidders hours before the bid would expire,” she said.
Mkhwebane said that Sassa incurred financial losses in terms of accommodation for two months and subsistence and travel allowances for nine BEC members at the St Georges Hotel, as well as transport costs to transport the tender documents from Sassa head office to the hotel.
Mkhwebane ordered Sassa CEO Busisiwe Memela-Khambula to take appropriate steps to ensure that all Sassa officials involved in SCM processes, including members of the BECs and BACs, are trained on the relevant provisions of section 217 of the Constitution, the Public Finance Management Act.
The CEO must also initiate disciplinary action in accordance with the recommendations made in the internal investigation report, within 60 days from the date of this report.
Lastly, the CEO must submit a report on the implementation of the remedial action taken to the minister for Social Development within 60 days from the date of the report.