Angry woman strips down as dispute in Tshwane heats up
THE FEUD between city of Tshwane and service providers over non-payment for catering provided for homeless people during the lockdown took a dramatic turn yesterday when a woman took off her clothes to vent her frustration.
The woman was among a group of service providers who arrived uninvited to a media briefing organised by Head Administrator Mpho Nawa to shed light on alleged corruption in procurement of the service.
Some service providers and at least 10 city officials have been linked to collusion during the process to give contracts for feeding around 18 000 people who were accommodated in 24 temporary shelters set up by local government to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The service providers are under fire for allegedly inflating prices with the initial invoices of 15 service providers amounting to more than R19 million. Previous acting city manager, Mavela Dlamini noted non-compliance with Supply Chain Management (SCM) processes and instituted an investigation.
For the past five months, the service providers, say the City has refused to pay them for the food they provided.
Minutes before the briefing was due to begin, some had already occupied seats inside a room set aside for the event. Metro police were called in to eject the group. However, the service providers reacted angrily, saying anyone who dared to touch them did so at their own risk.
One woman protested against the presence of the metro police by stripping down in full view of journalists and everyone else present.
The police eventually left the scene, and journalists were moved to another venue for the briefing.
In the briefing, Nawa said the City was not insensitive to the plight of the caterers. However, he said the municipality would not pay them without first having validated the type of invoices they had submitted for catering services.
This was part of the investigation into alleged collusion between municipal officials and themselves during the procurement stage.
It emerged during the briefing that the head of supply chain management had been placed on suspension for failing to issue purchase orders to service providers.
City audit executive Moeketsi Ntsimane explained: “Any service provider would actually receive a purchase order from the City. At the same time a service provider would have received a letter of appointment indicating the type of service to be provided and the price to be paid.”
He said other service providers were unable to prove that they had delivered services on behalf of the City. “We are finalising investigations. We are collaborating with the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and the Hawks as far as the matter of Covid-19-related financial expenditure is concerned,” Ntsimane said.
Nawa said in June, Dlamini was approached by caterers who claimed to have provided food at Tshwane shelters for homeless people during the lockdown. The initial invoices for 15 providers amounted to R19 793 896.
Dlamini later resigned. Nawa said current acting city manager Mmaseabata Mutlaneng had also met the catering providers to discuss their concerns.
“This meeting prompted an instruction to the internal forensics investigation team to place specific attention to the validity of the invoices. The preliminary investigation uncovered discrepancies in respect of the number of beneficiaries being catered for versus the actual number who were accommodated at the shelters.
“The investigation also noted additional and often exorbitant fees such as delivery, labour and waiter services,” Nawa said.
Mutlaneng said administrators didn’t know about the service providers until they brought the matter to the attention of Dlamini in June.
According to her, the City had been under the impression all along that the feeding of the homeless in the shelters would be taken care of by the Department of Social Development. “In many reports where the command council had sat week in and week out throughout that entire period we didn’t know there was a specific requirement for catering until the matter was brought to the attention of Mavela in June,” Mutlaneng said.
She added that at the time there were many non-profit organisations offering food parcels and that some shelters were fed by the local Muslim community.
The service providers were on the database of the City and were requested via email to provide services. She said one of the officials asked them to provide services without going through a proper supply chain management process to obtain a purchase order reflecting the type of service expected of them and its cost.
Of 34 service providers, the City was in the process of paying eight whose information could be validated, Mutlaneng said. “We had to ask some of them to provide an affidavit as a form of confirmation that they had provided goods and services on behalf of the City.”