eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede dances with pastors at the prayer session. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/Ana
DURBAN - The eThekwini Municipality has not said how the R22million it has budgeted for the city’s annual senior citizens programme, which is essentially a year-end party for pensioners, will be spent.

With December a few weeks away, allegations of irregular expenditure and corruption regarding the programme have surfaced again, as they did in the past two years.

This week, city manager Sipho Nzuza confirmed that the allegations had been referred to the municipality’s integrity investigations unit. A whistle-blower presented information pertaining to corruption totalling millions, related to supply chain management processes for the programme.

The programme is held every year close to the festive season with the aim of treating senior citizens to a special day on which they receive food hampers, a meal for the day and entertainment.

Almost 66 000 senior citizens, across the city’s 110 wards, benefit from the programme. The Sunday Tribune has seen emails where a whistle-blower alleged that the awarding of tenders for the 2017 event was being delayed intentionally.

The whistle-blower alleged that a last-minute award would be made to a preferred company, which would leave other bidders powerless to appeal the adjudication process.

“In the past the tender document made provisions for more than one service provider to be awarded. However it has since been amended, the tender document is drafted in a way that only one company could provide all the relevant services, which benefited a particular company,” the whistle-blower alleged.

The source also alleged that in 2014 and 2015 there was irregular expenditure totalling more than R2m linked to the hiring of marquees in 74 wards.

It is alleged that those wards did not require the use of marquees because parties were being hosted in community halls, which bore no cost to the municipality.

The whistle-blower also alleged that service providers supplied and used lower quality products yet they billed the city for expensive brand items.

“They did not supply regular brands which the senior citizens were accustomed to receiving in the past. Last year, the chickens that were supplied were cheap imports from Brazil and the rice was also an unpopular brand,” alleged the whistle-blower.

Democratic Alliance Chief Whip, Sharon Hoosen, submitted questions to Nzuza last week regarding the allegations. She said it was not the first time that such allegations had been made about the handling of the programme.

Report

Hoosen said in 2014, a report compiled by former city manager Sbu Sithole pertaining to allegations of possible collusion between officials, councillors and suppliers, had been drafted, but it had never been tabled before the city’s executive committee.

“We have requested for this report on numerous occasions but it was never presented. Had that report surfaced, the city could have taken corrective measures to avoid further fraud and corruption,” said Hoosen.

City spokeswoman, Tozi Mthethwa, denied the allegations, but confirmed that the suppliers and contractors had not been appointed for this year’s programme.

She said it had been proposed that the event be held at the end of November.

“A public process has been followed in line with our supply chain management (SCM) processes.

“The tender process closed three weeks ago and is currently being evaluated,” said Mthethwa.

About tender documents being manipulated and the use of specific brands, Mthethwa said the city’s actions were in line with their SCM policy.

“This is to ensure that a wider market is reached. It is also to ensure competitiveness,” said Mthethwa.

Mthethwa denied the allegations relating to the irregular expenditure for hired marquees and said payments were made only where marquees were used.

“Municipal halls were used where possible and marquees were used only in specific wards,” said Mthethwa.

With regard to the report into the senior citizens programme, Mthethwa said the recommendations of the report were taken into account and all of them were implemented.

SUNDAY TRIBUNE