KwaZulu-Natal Prime Minister Sihle Zikalala and his government on Wednesday outlined several steps taken to address the issues raised in the Auditor-General’s special report on financial management of the Covid-19 pandemic.
MEPs have been informed that disciplinary proceedings are pending against a number of officials, including senior managers. Some have been suspended, others have resigned or been demoted, and money is being reclaimed from those who stole during the pandemic.
Dr. Nonhlanhla Mkhize gave an overview from the Office of the Prime Minister and Director-General, said Dr. Nonhlanhla Mkhize briefly After structures were put in place to oversee the procurement processes of Covid-19, the Provincial Executive Council took note of media reports of the purchase of personal protective equipment [PPE] and blankets in the province.
She said, the PEC quickly launched an investigation, and on July 21, 2021, the result of the investigation was released and the report submitted to the relevant departments for review and implementation of the consequences management.
Education HOD Nkosinathi Ngcobo said, “We will conduct an investigation into the reported findings [of the AG] and if there are any losses, disciplinary proceedings will be instituted and the loss restored.”
Ngcobo told MPs that “officials at the director level have been suspended and they had to undergo disciplinary proceedings. One was fired and two were suspended for three months without pay. Other officers are still undergoing disciplinary proceedings, which are at various stages.”
Social Development HOD Nelisiwe Vilakazi informed MPs that on June 15, 2020 a forensic report for blankets and on July 10, 2020 another received for PSA. The report recommended charging 12 people with misconduct.
“Before the report came in, some officers named in the report left the department. A senior manager resigned and another died in August 2020. Two other officers could not be charged because there was no evidence,” Vilakazi said.
She said as of July 8, 2020, eight officers were suspended and on November 18 one was found guilty and given a final written warning. “The officer has been transferred to another department where she will not handle financial matters,” she said.
Another officer was found guilty and downgraded on May 10, 2021.
< p>In June 2021, a CFO resigned.
“We have four misconduct hearings pending,” she said, adding that all affected senior managers were suspended.
Vilakazi said the Special Investigating Unit was part of the process.
Health HOD Dr. Sandile Tshabalala said when the WG inspected the department, two major irregularities were identified that were similar to those of the SIU.
“These related to the procurement of disinfectants at a higher price than required by the treasury and the procurement of non-sterile examination gloves over the price,” Tshabalala said.
He said the department is getting funds back on both issues.
Hlengiwe Mkhaliphi of the EFF said it was It’s good that the Department of Education launched its investigation, she asked for timeframes to hold the Department accountable.
“If we as a government, especially during the pandemic, are not going to send a clear signal to people who committed crimes means anyone can say we’re just threatening. We need to send a strong message,” Mkhaliphi said.
Her colleague Anthony Matuba said he was puzzled as to why some of the officers found guilty had been transferred to other departments because “a thief is a thief .” Prosecutor’s Celliers Brink said he was concerned that KZN would find itself in another disaster and have to grapple with public funds. “The concern is with the use of this money,” he said.
Zikalala acknowledged the concerns. However, he said: “I have to hurry to say yes we are following and working to ensure that all of the AG’s recommendations are [implemented]. There are a number of investigations that we are conducting and taking disciplinary action on, so it’s not like we’re just relying on whistleblowers and the AG.”