Auditing firm to probe furniture tenders

THE Eastern Cape Planning and Treasury Department has appointed auditing firm SizweNtsalubaGobodo to conduct a forensic investigation into the awarding of a multimillion-rand tender to supply more than 1300 schools with school furniture.

The department awarded a R46-million tender to 14 companies. The Bhisho High court set aside the tender a month ago, stating that it had been awarded irregularly and unlawfully.

It was reported last month that millions of rands' worth of school furniture was now lying in storage around the province.

Treasury superintendent general Marion Mbina-Mthembu confirmed her department had instituted the forensic investigation.

SizweNtsalubaGobodo spokesman Mankwe Sithole did not want to comment.

Education Department spokesman Loyiso Pulumani confirmed that his department had received correspondence from the Treasury informing them about the probe. It comes after Eastern Cape businessman and prominent soccer boss Bongile Nkola was granted an interim interdict preventing the provincial department from continuing with the tender.

Nkola alleges the issuing and awarding of the tender was irregular and unlawful. Last year he successfully interdicted a R30- million school furniture tender awarded in a similar fashion.

Legal Resources Centre spokesman Cameron McConnachie welcomed the probe. "The department's lawyers have conceded that the process was irregular – it is now just a question of whether there was fraudulent, corrupt activity as well.

"There is obviously a massive need for furniture, and the department is unable to deliver due to its own incapacity, and possibly corruption," McConnachie said.

He suggested the national Treasury should take over the procurement of furniture from the provincial department, or circumscribe the procedure to such an extent the provincial department was unable to mess it up. - Mphumzi Zuzile