EC education department flouting procurement policies, processes

The provincial education department, which obtained the worst audit outcome in the province in the 2016-17 financial year assessment, has flouted several procurement policies and processes in the year under review.

Provincial auditor-general Sithembele Pieters found that the troubled department, which accounts for the lion’s share of the provincial budget, awarded tenders without soliciting quotations to suppliers that did not declare they were working for the state, some had outdated tax certificates, and to constructors with no relevant certificates as required by legislation.

The AG discovered that goods and services with a transaction value of more than R500 000 had been procured without obtaining the required price quotations from service providers, as required by Treasury regulations.

It was also found that the MEC Mandla Makupula-led department had not applied the preference point system in all procurement of goods and services above R30 000 as required by Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act.

According to the AG, some contracts were awarded to bidders based on adjudication criteria that differed from those stipulated in the original invitation for bidding, while other tenders were given to bidders that did not score the highest points during evaluation.

The AG further found that construction contracts were awarded by the department to contractors that were not registered with the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB), while IT related goods and services classified as mandatory were not procured through SITA as required.

“Sufficient appropriate audit evidence could not be obtained to determine whether persons in the service of the department who had a private or business interest in contracts awarded by the department failed to disclose such interest,” the AG said.

Recently, the department was hauled before the Bhisho legislat u re ’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa), where committee chair and UDM MPL Max Mhlathi told them that “the flouting of procurement processes promotes corruption in the public sector”.

Responding to the AG’s findings and Scopa concerns, the department’s superintendent-general Themba Kojana said he had “justifiable reasons” for the “singles o u rc e ” selection and the use of specific suppliers.

“These suppliers were selected taking into account their operational capacities,” he said.

Kojana said his department had awarded contracts to suppliers that did not score the highest points in a particular contract because the two suppliers with the highest points had not had “the correct level of expertise” as per the specification criteria.

“In instances where the awards related to actual construction contracts, management partially agreed with the finding.

“This is because at the time of testing the awards, the contractor’s registration with the CIDB had expired although at the time of the award that contractor was registered with the CIDB,” he said.

Kojana could not be reached yesterday for further comment.