KZN treasury closely monitoring Covid-19 expenditure as bill breaches R1 billion mark
Durban – The KwaZulu-Natal finance department, the “custodian of the public purse” in the province, says it is closely monitoring the expenditure of all provincial departments in order to ensure that the Covid-19 emergency regulations are not abused.
This was revealed by the province’s MEC for finance, Ravi Pillay, while tabling his department’s R719 million 2020-2021 budget on Wednesday during a virtual session.
Pillay said during this time of the Covid-19 crisis, they are working on equipping supply chain management staff on the new Covid-19 emergency procurement regulations. He said this had been made necessary after they became “acutely aware of the risks that are already manifesting themselves”.
He did not specify what exactly they have detected, but went on to say they will undertake the training of supply chain management to ensure that departments can procure commodities on an emergency basis in line with the emergency procurement regulations, without compromising on quality, specifications and value for money.
“It must be stressed that the provincial treasury cannot do the procurement itself. Departments remain responsible and accounting officers remain accountable.
"The provincial treasury has started monitoring expenditure related to Covid-19 by municipalities, public entities and departments.
"Risks such as the possible purchase of items not related to Covid-19 while using the emergency procurement regulations and instruction notes have been identified,” he said.
He then revealed how much the province’s 14 departments have used so far for Covid-19-related procurement, but did specify what these departments bought.
As of May 15, 2020, the department had spent R1.3 billion with the provincial department of health, probably because it plays a key role in the Covid-19 fight, having been the largest spender at R1,2 billion.
It was followed by the department of social development, which had spent R51 million, followed by the department of education, which had spent R35 million.
The department of social development is being probed for spending R22 million to buy blankets, which are believed to have been bought at R600 per unit when, in fact, they retail at around R180 in an open market.
Pillay later spoke about measures they are working on to root out corrupt practices and fraudulent activities. He revealed that the forensic unit under his department was struggling to cope with the cases as most of the allegations they receive and investigate are serious and complex.
“These investigations are very costly and had created serious financial pressures for the unit. During the 2017/2018 financial year, a strategic decision was taken to direct all local government institutions and public entities to fund their investigations, disciplinary hearings and criminal investigations themselves.
"Provincial treasury will, however, assist wherever possible, but will prioritise investigation requests from departments,” Pillay said, adding that 449 investigation requests were received by the unit between December 2009 to 31 March, 2020.
The requests came from provincial department departments, provincial government-owned entities and municipalities.
“The majority of investigation requests relate to supply chain management irregularities and/or fraud. Approximately 83% of the investigation requests received were investigated and completed.
"Those that warranted criminal investigation were referred to the law enforcement agencies for further investigation. The remaining 17% of alleged corruption and fraud cases reported are currently under investigation.
"Recently the forensic unit was able to successfully initiate a recovery order to the value of approximately R547 million through the Asset Forfeiture Unit in one of its matters.
"Several arrests have been made during the past years, with some high-profile matters currently on the court roll.”