It is a case of ‘hear no evil, see no evil’ as KwaDukuza Municipality has been unable to explain how a contract for more than R15 million was signed and sealed, apparently without the knowledge of senior officials.
The municipality took two suppliers to the Durban High Court in July, to cancel what they found to be an irregular contract for the service and maintenance of office equipment – copiers, scanners and fax machines.
Although the court ruled in their favor, saying the contracts were null and void, KDM’s internal investigation, which has been ongoing for almost a year, has not confirmed how the irregular contract was signed or who was responsible for approving it in the first place.
When the probe started, all equipment in question was removed from KDM departments, leaving most offices and libraries in the district without basic copier and fax services.
In the initial report last year, council was told that the irregular contracts had been slipped into a pile of documents sent for approval while the municipal manager was on leave. However, the court papers tell a different story.
According to the judgment handed down by the Durban High Court, KDM had piggybacked on a contract between the Greater Kokstad Municipality and two suppliers from Port Shepstone for the supply of office equipment under the condition that the terms of the contract would be the same – including the cost of R1 034 208 for two years. This apparently is not an unusual practice.
The reality was that the original contract with Kokstad had expired and its replacement contract was different – with the cost soaring to a staggering R15 million.
When this was discovered six months later, KDM officials disclaimed all knowledge of how the contract had been concluded, who had approved it and who had signed it off.
According to the municipal supply chain process, the contract would have been approved by the tender committee, finance department and the acting municipal manager at the time.
Commenting this week, DA Ilembe chief whip Malcolm Hubner said council had been kept in the dark about the status of an internal investigation that was supposed to be led by the municipal manager, Nhlanhla Mdakane.
“We were aware that three senior employees were being investigated for their involvement and that later, three members of the tender evaluation committee were added to the mix.
“Since then we have not had any reports other than the outcome of the case in July when KDM had to pay R176 000 in rental costs.”
Two months ago, KDM media liaison Sipho Mkhize told the Courier that provisions for printing had been made. However, offices are in fact still without printers.
According to an anonymous source within the municipality, officials are trying to rake up about R2 million from the various department budgets to buy replacement equipment.
It is also understood that the investigation to find the culprits had stalled for the past seven months and had been “swept under the carpet,” said the source.
Howveer, on Tuesday Mkhize said the internal investigation was still underway.
“We reiterate that once the municipality has concluded the investigation it initiated it will communicate it to the community.”
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