The Committee continued its review of the registers of fruitless, wasteful and irregular expenditure of the Department of Correctional Services. It discussed the Department’s capacity challenges, and then the Committee probed several individual cases of fruitless and wasteful expenditure, and continued to probe particular cases in the register of irregular expenditure. It asked questions about the officials involved, the progress of investigations, the disciplinary processes that were taken against implicated officials and whether any money had been or was likely to be recovered. It emerged that the process of investigation was highly inefficient and that officials often resigned to avoid disciplinary action. The Committee would look at addressing this problem in law. The Committee was unsatisfied with the quality of the document provided by the Department, which they found to be misleading in certain respects, particularly with regard to the completeness of investigations. The Committee paid particular attention to several contracts awarded to Integritron Integrated Solutions.
The Chairperson welcomed officials from the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA), National Treasury (NT) and the Independent Development Trust (IDT). He also welcomed officials from the AGSA-equivalent in Kenya and Uganda, who were on a study tour. He acknowledged receipt of correspondence from NT related to the written warnings issued to the bid adjudication committee and he asked Members to look at it. He then asked Ms B Zibula (ANC) to lead the questions related to fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
Mr Arthur Fraser, National Commissioner, DCS, asked if he could give a broad overview on what had been done by the Department impacting on fruitless and wasteful expenditure before dealing with specific cases.
The Chairperson allowed this.
Mr Fraser acknowledged there were challenges in responding to fruitless and wasteful expenditure. A Supply Chain Management (SCM) strategy was put in place in 2018/19. It emerged a number of officials were multi-tasking and some were not SCM professionals. Many of the errors were the result of basic SCM processes not being adhered to because the Department did not have specialised officials.
The Chairperson asked if the specialisation referred to was knowledge of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).
Mr Fraser confirmed this.
The Chairperson wondered how any official could be employed without knowledge of the PFMA.
Mr Fraser replied that due to a lack of skills, custodial officials were given the responsibility for SCM. The Department had undertaken to up-skill these officials.
The Chairperson remarked that whoever had delegated SCM to these officials needed to be dealt with. This was negligent.
Ms N Tolashe (ANC) asked Mr Fraser to give the positions and names of these officials.
Mr S Somyo (ANC, Chairperson of the Standing Committee on the Auditor-Gemeral) agreed with the Chairperson’s point. If an official delegated a job, the responsibility remained with the official who was in authority.
The Chairperson commended the up-skilling of officials but asked to know the names of the officials.
Mr Fraser undertook to do a comprehensive report on the matter. He also said that the Department would finalise all of its SCM policies within the next fortnight. A communication strategy, to create greater awareness of the liability to which SCM officials are exposed, was also being prepared.
Ms Zibula said there were cases going back all the way to 2012/13 which were completed but were still pending approval. The delays showed a lack of consequence management. Case three was an example of this. Accommodation was reserved but later cancelled. Had any money been recovered in this case?
Ms Portia Mandisa Seipati Matjele, Director: Inspectorate, DCS, replied that money was not yet recovered in this case. Letters were sent to the relevant officials to inform them of the amounts to be recovered.
Ms Zibula observed that this case took place as far back as 2011.
Ms Matjele conceded the incident took place in 2011. The investigations was done in 2016/17 and completed in 2017/18, however.
The Chairperson asked why it had not been recovered now that the investigation was complete.
Mr Ramootsedi Motaung, Deputy Commissioner: Internal Control and Compliance, DCS, explained there were internal processes that had to take place. Implicated officials also needed to have an opportunity to make representations. This caused delays.
Ms Zibula was not satisfied with the responses. It seemed like the DCS were not being truthful. They were just covering for each other.
Mr A Lees (DA) said there was a general point arising from this case. Many cases were subject to endless delays with no finalisation. There was no dispute about the need for certain internal processes but they could not take years. This was simply not a good enough reason. Such long delays raised the suspicion of a cover-up. It looked like people were being given time to move or resign. For example, Tom Moyane was named in cases 9-15.
Ms Tolashe agreed it was not acceptable. Was the investigation not the time to listen to whoever was involved? What was done during the investigation if discussions with officials involved only took place after the investigation?
Mr Somyo asked whether investigation outcomes were respected at the Department.
Ms B Van Minnen (DA) was concerned that investigations that took a long time might cost many times more than the amount that could be recovered. This was a double waste of money. There seemed to be no will to prosecute these matters.
The Chairperson asked if the officials involved in case three were still working at the Department.
Ms Matjele said that one had since retired, and the other was still working.
Mr Fraser acknowledged the situation was unacceptable. He said the Department was working to align the different investigation units, and it had established an integrity and ethics committee to oversee irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure and monitor consequence management.
The Chairperson said that principle was what mattered.
The Chairperson asked when the money would be recovered.
Mr Fraser said that there was a challenge in recovering debts older than three years. They became prescribed.
The Chairperson objected that the document indicated that this money would be recovered. Would it be recovered or not?
Mr Pieter Kilian, DCS, said that when an official did not agree they were liable to pay back money, the case had to be referred to the state attorney to recover the money through the courts. However, debts older than three years could not be recovered.
The Chairperson said the question was simple - would the money be recovered? It seemed strange that an official had to be asked if he or she agreed with an investigation that had found them liable.
Mr Motaung replied that the money would be recovered.
The Chairperson asked if this meant the debt had been prescribed or not.
Mr Motaung said that all legal and administrative angles would be looked at.
The Chairperson asked for simple responses. Would the money be recovered? Was the matter prescribed? The document was misleading.
Ms Van Minnen asked if money had been recovered in any cases.
The Chairperson asked if anyone had taken responsibility for a debt.
Mr Motaung said there had been recoveries in prior years.
The Chairperson asked how old the debt was.
Ms Matjele said that investigations had been completed in 2017/18.
The Chairperson said this meant the matter of prescription did not apply. The problem was that the Department was not acting with the necessary urgency.
Mr Somyo said that someone was not doing their job.
The Chairperson said investigations without consequences became a cosmetic exercise. This particular case was minor but they added up. Officials did not look after public money. If it was their money, officials would pursue the debt. But officials did not take enough care of public money. The management of public funds required integrity. This included recovering funds. It was unacceptable that officials involved were still working.
Mr Somyo asked Ms Matjele whether the findings of her investigations were honoured.
Ms Matjele replied that they were not. Not all findings were followed up.
The Chairperson said that this was the problem.
Ms Zibula drew attention to case 49 in which accommodation was not cancelled. Who was the supervisor who had failed to cancel the booking?
Ms Matjele replied that the supervisor resigned in February 2016 before the investigation was completed.
The Chairperson asked if this official was still in the public service.
Ms Matjele was not sure.
The Chairperson said such officials needed to be tracked down. Resignation could not be the end of an investigation.
Mr Fraser said that the official would be found and the findings followed up.
Mr Lees asked when this investigation was completed.
Ms Matjele did not know the exact date. It was during 2016/17.
Mr Lees observed that it must have been after the official had resigned. How then had the investigation taken place? Officials resigned, investigations were closed, and the Department just washed its hands.
Ms Zibula said there were numerous cases with similar outcomes in the register. She drew attention to case 64. Had money been recovered?
Ms Matjele explained that in all cases which indicated money to be recovered, letters were sent to the relevant officials to recover the expenditure.
The Chairperson asked roughly when these letters had been sent.
Ms Zibula said that even though it was a small amount, it was still public money. If small amounts were overlooked, one day large amounts could be overlooked. Was the official responsible still working at the Department?
Ms Matjele said he was still employed at the Department.
Ms Zibula said this was a problem. When would he be approached to repay the money?
Ms T Marawu (ATM) asked if NT could explain the process for recovering money in these cases. Was it difficult?
Ms Basani Duiker, Chief Director: SCM Governance, Monitoring and Compliance, NT, asked for time to obtain the procedures from the office of the Accountant-General.
The Chairperson asked roughly when the letters had been sent to officials involved in fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
Ms Matjele did not have the exact dates because the letters had been sent by another department.
The Chairperson asked for a rough idea. Was it last month? Or three months ago?
Mr Fraser asked if the Department could come back and bring that information.
The Chairperson was unwilling to allow this. He just asked for a rough idea. Who was responsible for tracking this correspondence?
Mr Fraser said that the integrity and ethics committee was responsible for recovering fruitless and wasteful expenditure. He would check when the letters had been sent and report during the meeting.
The Chairperson allowed this. The particular problems, he remarked, were slow and ineffective processes and officials who did not fear the state.
Ms Zibula said that the Department should be given a chance to fix the document and return to the Committee before the end of the year. She also noted the delegation size with disapproval.
Ms Tolashe said that the Committee should finish hearing from the DCS that day. This was already a follow-up hearing, and she did not think there would be any changes if they met again in a week.
The Chairperson observed that AGSA had expressed concern about investigations not being done at DCS. He said the Committee should look at closely at investigations.
Mr Lees, with reference to cases 9-15, asked what the phrase ‘the investigator to further engage other parties for the version of their decision in order to determine facts’ meant in practice.
Mr Fraser replied that it indicated the investigation was completed but it had been discovered later that not all parties had been engaged.
Mr Lees asked who the parties were who would be engaged with.
Mr Fraser said it would be the former Minister, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, and the former National Commissioner of Correctional Services, Mr Tom Moyane.
Mr Lees asked how this would be done.
Mr Fraser said there would be a verbal and written engagement.
Mr Lees asked what the objective of the engagement was.
Mr Fraser said it was to allow the Department to conclude on the findings of the investigation.
Mr Lees asked if this entailed finding them responsible and recovering the money from them.
Mr Fraser said a determination would be made based on the findings.
Mr Lees found it strange that the Department was pursuing this matter despite the fact that the parties involved had left, while other cases were simply condoned when an official resigned. What was the difference?
Mr Fraser said he had made a commitment to the Committee to pursue cases of fruitless and wasteful expenditure and make recoveries where possible.
The Chairperson drew attention to case 10, in which accommodation was cancelled at short notice on the instruction of the Minister and the National Commissioner. Was this an allegation or a finding?
Mr Nick Ligege, Chief Financial Officer, DCS, clarified that it was a finding. However, the investigator had not probed the reasons for the cancellation.
Mr Lees asked why the investigation was then indicated as completed.
Mr Fraser acknowledged and took responsibility for the misrepresentation. Case 10 had been interrogated and it had been found that it had not been adequately completed.
The Chairperson said that this raised the question of what else in the report might be interrogated and found to be inadequate.
Mr Lees added that even in the report, the action taken was not consistent with a completed investigation.
The Chairperson drew attention to case 20, in which offices had been occupied illegally. These officials were no longer employed in government, but they were no longer being pursued. The consistency with which cases were being pursued was questionable. Cases could not be pursued politically. The Department should be blind to political considerations.
Mr Fraser said that if he had given the impression that the Department was pursuing any individuals, he would apologise, as that had not been the intention. He had wanted to indicate that he wanted to conclude the investigation.
Mr Lees was adamant that Mr Fraser had said that the Department would pursue individuals.
Mr Somyo asked whether this investigation was complete or incomplete.
Mr Fraser said that the investigation was incomplete.
The Chairperson said that this raised the question of the reliability of the document again.
Mr Fraser said that this was the only such case that he was aware of.
The Chairperson asked if case 24, which was marked complete but indicated the same action to be taken by the investigator as cases 9-15, was perhaps also incomplete.
Ms Matjele replied that this case fell under the same category. The same officials were involved. It should have been marked incomplete.
Mr Lees asked on what basis the entry indicated that no official was liable if the investigation had not been completed.
Ms Matjele acknowledged that the phrasing might be misleading. At this point the scope was being opened up so that the inspectorate could intervene and determine liability.
The Chairperson was still concerned about the integrity of the document. He drew attention to case 57, in which more than R30 000 worth of extra bread had been purchased. What had happened to the bread? Why was the investigation still incomplete?
Ms Matjele said the investigation had not been started yet because the inspectorate had prioritised the investigation of irregular rather than fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
The Chairperson asked when it would be done.
Ms Matjele replied that it would be completed by 31 March 2020.
The Chairperson said the Committee would expect all investigations to be complete by this date, and money to be recovered. Without recovery of funds, investigations were a waste. He instructed the Department to provide monthly progress updates to the register until completion, starting with 31 January 2020.
Mr Fraser reiterated his earlier commitment to this date.
The Chairperson said the Committee was interested in Rands, cents and people. The updated register should be shared with AGSA, and criminal charges should be laid where necessary. If the action steps taken against implicated officials were not satisfactory, AGSA would be engaged and material findings would be made against the Department. He asked Mr Lees to lead the questions related to irregular expenditure.
Mr Lees drew attention to case 61, involving the New Age newspaper. It went back to 2012. Three officials were involved and the investigation was finalised. Had these officials been referred for disciplinary action and were the officials still employed at the Department?
Ms Matjele replied that these cases were referred to the Departmental Investigation Unit (DIU) about one year ago.
Mr Lees asked how far the disciplinary process had progressed. The register was misleading - it said the officials were to be referred in the future. He asked again whether the officials were still employed.
Mr Kilian said he was responsible for disciplinary hearings and he had not received these cases. He thought the document was correct. It seemed the DIU had not yet forwarded the cases to the code enforcement unit.
Mr Lees asked why the investigation would be listed as finalised in this case. This kind of thing raised questions about the credibility of the report, and pointed to a lack of urgency in disciplinary matters. He asked again whether the officials were still employed.
Mr Fraser said there was a problem of duplication of investigations. According to legislation, the inspectorate was obligated to refer cases to the DIU before the Code Enforcement Unit (CEU) could implement disciplinary action. This was something that the Department was looking to short-circuit to ensure greater efficiency.
Mr Lees asked to hear from the DIU. Where these officials still employed? What was the status of the investigation?
Mr Fraser said he would communicate with the DIU to get this information.
Mr Lees asked about the plans to short-circuit the DIU. Had Mr Fraser not said there was legislation preventing this? What did this mean?
Mr Fraser explained the intention was ensure the inspectorate worked more closely with the DIU.
Mr Lees asked if Mr Fraser was suggesting a joint investigation. Would the legislation allow this?
Mr Kilian explained the Department was looking at having the investigator at the inspectorate appointed by the DIU, which would mean the investigation would be done under the DIU.
Mr Lees drew attention to case 73. Why were names of officials involved to be revealed during the investigation? Did this imply that the investigation had not begun yet?
Ms Matjele confirmed this.
Mr Lees drew attention to case 95. Was Ms Naidoo going to be followed up? How was condonation handled in cases of irregular expenditure? How were cases of irregular expenditure handled when officials had left the Department, as she had?
Mr Kilian replied that no disciplinary action of any kind could be taken against an official who had left the Department.
Mr Lees asked if there was any other action that could be taken.
Mr Ligege explained that in instances of irregular expenditure, if there was no loss to the state and a service was received, NT was requested to condone it.
Mr Lees asked if there would be a commitment from the Commissioner that if there was a loss to the state, civil action should be instituted to recover the loss.
Mr Fraser said there would be.
Mr Lees drew attention to case 77. Why was it not already referred for disciplinary action? What was the delay? In general, what caused delays in referring cases?
Ms Matjele replied that delays were caused because reports had to be signed off by all relevant parties.
Mr Lees said this sounded tedious. Did implicated officials have the authority to overturn the recommendations of the referral?
Mr Motaung said there were various stages to the process. There was a probability that the decision might be reversed or sent back for further investigation. It was true that it could be very tedious.
Mr Lees asked, with reference to the cases involving Mr Govender, what it meant for an official to ‘have already been disciplined on similar cases.’ If an official repeated the same crime on multiple occasions, were they only disciplined on the first occasion? Or are all of them covered under the same disciplinary action?
Mr Kilian said that multiple charges against the same person were usually combined into the same hearing. Incidents occurring later would involve a new disciplinary hearing.
Mr Lees asked which procedure took place in the case of Mr Govender, which involved numerous different suppliers. Surely these should have treated separately?
Mr Hadebe added that all cases involving Mr Govender in the register indicated he was disciplined for similar cases. Which cases was he disciplined for?
Mr Kilian explained there was no dishonesty involved in any of the cases with Mr Govender. All of them referred to cases where there was some emergency, such as a burst pipe, or under instruction from a senior official to do something immediately. In the end a written warning was considered the best approach. Further cases of the same type had come up later, and it was judged not worthwhile to pursue any disciplinary action in these cases.
The Chairperson asked if the investigation revealed the use of the same or different service providers. Which was the go-to company?
Mr Hadebe said the register seemed to imply the same transgressions were occurring despite the fact that a final warning was issued. Would this situation continue indefinitely?
Mr Kilian said that all cases in the register were from the same period. If recent cases emerged, new disciplinary processes would take place.
Mr Hadebe noted again that all cases involving Mr Govender in the register indicated he was disciplined for similar cases. Which was the base case for which he had received a final written warning?
Ms Matjele replied that it was cases related to emergency plumbing services.
Mr Hadebe requested evidence of these cases.
Mr Fraser undertook to make evidence available.
The Chairperson asked again if one or many service provider were used in these cases.
Ms Tolashe observed the emergencies had gone on for two consecutive years. It should not be repeated and used as an excuse. The situation could also be construed as the Department allowing corruption to continue for two years.
Mr Lees drew attention to case 337, involving Sondolo IT, the investigation into which had not been started yet, despite the fact that it had occurred in 2012.
Mr Fraser explained the case was investigated by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) as part of the Bosasa investigation.
Mr Lees drew attention to case 342, which was reclassified as non-irregular expenditure on the grounds that officials involved had declared their interests. Was it now prohibited for government officials to do business with the state even if they did declare their interests?
Mr Motaung replied that in 2012, when the case had occurred, it had not been prohibited.
Mr Hadebe pointed out that, according to the irregular expenditure framework, requests for condonation of could be made to NT if the entity involved had not suffered any loss, or if disciplinary action was taken against the officials involved. In cases 65 and 96, a request for condonation had been made but there was no evidence of disciplinary action. Was this not in contravention of the framework?
Mr Motaung replied that these cases had occurred before the framework had been so specific.
Mr Hadebe was not satisfied with the explanation. There were other cases where officials were not disciplined because they had left the Department, but in these cases, the officials were still working there. Changes to the framework could not be used as an excuse.
Mr Motaung noted the comment and said he would provide details to provide consistency.
Ms Duiker clarified the irregular expenditure framework did and always required disciplinary action to be taken. It caused a problem for NT because part of its review involved determining what disciplinary action was taken. Long investigations caused a number of problems, too.
Mr Hadebe wondered if cases such as case 3, which was declared as non-irregular once certain documents was found, could not have been removed from the register by submitting the documents to AGSA.
Mr Motaung agreed that doing this could have saved a lot of time.
Mr Hadebe drew attention to case 61. Was the Department going to pursue disciplinary action against an official who was no longer employed there?
Mr Motaung replied that officials who had resigned could not be disciplined.
Mr Hadebe replied that such inaccuracies in the document raised questions about its credibility and wasted the Committee’s time.
Ms Tolashe added the document could not be relied on. She asked the Department to provide a list of officials who had left the Department, with reasons. There was a pattern of officials facing disciplinary action leaving the Department.
Mr Lees reminded the Department that his question about the employment status of the three officials involved in the New Age case had not been answered.
Mr Somyo asked the Department to comment on its assessment of the effectiveness of regionally directed investigations. Why were they so slow? What could be done to speed them up?
Mr Kilian drew attention to Proclamation 10 of 2008, which referred to a number of irregular tenders and bids. The process of determining who needed to be disciplined was at an advanced stage
Mr Fraser acknowledged the Department faced capacity challenges and was working to ensure the accountability of regional commissioners and a transparent governance regime. To this end a governance framework was established. The Department had also developed a management handbook to ensure consistent application of the framework.
The Chairperson drew attention to case 57, involving the extension of a contract. Could the Department explain the withdrawal of the matter by the then National Commissioner?
Mr Motaung replied that Mr Lethoba was investigated. No evidence of liability or wrongdoing was found - Mr Lethoba had resigned, and the matter had been closed.
The Chairperson asked if the extension had been lawful.
Ms Matjele was not sure, as the investigation had not been done by the inspectorate but by an investigator appointed by the then National Commissioner.
The Chairperson was unsatisfied with this response. Some details were known, because it was included in the register.
Ms Matjele replied that the entry in the register was based on the incident memorandum provided.
The Chairperson asked if the entry in the register was factual.
Ms Matjele said it was. She noted again the inspectorate had not conducted the investigation.
Mr Lees asked who had done the investigation. Had the National Commissioner just appointed his own investigator? The contract was a very lucrative one.
The Chairperson noted the names of officials that were omitted from the register when the Committee met the week before were now included. It was omitted for years but now it was suddenly included. How had it become available so quickly?
The head of SCM at the Department said that his office worked over the weekend with the inspectorate and the CEU to find the information.
The Chairperson asked where the information had been sourced.
The head of SCM replied that it had been sourced from the inspectorate and the CEU.
The Chairperson observed that the information had been available, but not forthcoming.
The head of SCM acknowledged that there was a lack of collaboration between the three offices involved.
The Chairperson continued that the problem seemed to be a laissez-faire or selective attitude to work, which was problematic. Had the Committee not raised it, it would not have been corrected. It raised questions about the integrity of information flow at the Department.
Mr Hadebe added that the Committee had been told the information was confidential.
The Chairperson asked if the information had now been declassified.
The head of SCM replied that his office had engaged with the CEU on this issue. CEU had said that the confidentiality referred to was between employer and employee. The information should still be provided to Parliament if requested.
The Chairperson asked if he was satisfied with the completeness of the document.
The head of SCM replied that everything made available since the previous week was included in the document.
The Chairperson directed the Department to update the document monthly and indicate updates made. He then drew attention to cases involving Integritron Integrated Solutions. NT indicated it had found these contracts to have been awarded irregularly, cancelled the contracts, blacklisted Integritron and recommended disciplinary action against the bid committee and Accounting Officer. The Department unsuccessfully challenged NT on the matter, but multi-million Rand payments continued. Why? Who authorised these payments?
Mr Kilian was unable to comment on the continuation of the payments. In 2016, the CEU received a recommendation for disciplinary action against members of the bid adjudication committee from the DIU, based on a report by the Auditor-General. This report made no finding of fraud or corruption, had not found evidence of fruitless or wasteful expenditure. The report from the DIU had not found any dishonesty. The CEU suggested written warnings against the officials involved.
The Chairperson asked if the contract had been cancelled.
Mr Fraser replied that it had not.
The Chairperson asked why the explicit direction of NT to cancel the contract had not been followed.
Ms Nthabiseng Mosupye, General Information Technology Officer, DCS, replied that the Department and NT received interdicts from Integritron. The court case found the directive of NT was not an instruction in terms of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act.
Ms Duiker said NT raised the matters even before the contract was originally awarded. It should not have gone as far as it did in the first place.
The Chairperson wondered why NT had not been able to defend its position.
Mr Somyo tentatively suggested that once the Department decided to work against NT’s instruction, it had become difficult to change this course or challenge it legally. Had there been a court decision on the matter?
Mr Hadebe agreed. Once a contract was entered into, only a court of law could set it aside. However, it would have strengthened their case if NT pursued the matter further, since the instruction was given before the contract was awarded.
Ms Tolashe criticised the Department for awarding the contract against the advice of NT. It confirmed the Committee’s suspicions about the relationships between the Department and its service providers.
Mr Fraser, in response to Mr Somyo’s question, said that there had not yet been a court decision.
The Chairperson was still unclear why NT had not been able to defend its position in court.
Ms Duiker said she would report back on the legal matter. She explained that NT checked some contracts before they were awarded to mitigate risk. Once a contract was awarded it was no longer a procedural matter but a legal matter.
The Chairperson observed the matters raised by NT before the contract was awarded amounted to corruption. It was a serious indictment. The processes of NT were rendered useless if they were second-guessed or accepted selectively. The Committee would follow the matter through the courts, he said.
Mr Lees asked again if the three officials implicated in the New Age case were still employed at the Department.
Ms Matjele replied that two of them had resigned and one was still employed.
Mr Lees drew attention to case 56, involving deviation from competitive bidding procedures by the IDT in the awarding of a fencing contract worth R17.8m, which was being investigated by the SIU. Did the IDT have any comment?
Mr Tshepo Rapetswa, Acting Senior Manager: Legal Services, IDT, acknowledged the contract was found to be irregular and the IDT was directed to recover the money. The IDT issued a summons and was waiting for a plea before taking the matter to a trial.
Mr Lees asked how much of the actual fencing work had been done. How complicated would the recovery be?
Mr Rapetswa explained the total value of the contract was R35m. Work to the value of R17.5m was done before NT advised that the contract be terminated. IDT officials paid the R17.8m balance of the contract as a settlement without due authorisation. These officials were disciplined but were no longer employed at IDT. However, the IDT believed the case was simple and it was confident of success.
Mr Lees wondered if the contractor actually had the funds to be able to repay the Department. Winning a court case and actually recovering the money were two different things. What were the prospects of the latter?
Mr Rapetswa said that the IDT believed that the contractor did have the funds.
Mr Lees asked what the cost of the work already done (for which the Department had paid R17.5m) should have been, given that the bidding process was not competitive. Had this been investigated?
Mr Rapetswa replied that the reports that had been done did not raise this question.
Mr Lees asked what form of disciplinary action was taken against the officials who had paid out the remainder of the contract value. Would there be any attempt to recover the cost of litigation from them?
Mr Rapetswa said that none of the reports on the matter had recommended recovering money from the officials as there was no evidence that they had benefited.
Mr Lees asked what the consequences had been for the officials.
Mr Rapetswa replied that two of the officials resigned during the disciplinary process. Two more had not yet responded to the letters.
The Chairperson said that resignation to avoid disciplinary action was unacceptable. It could not be the end of the matter. This needed to be addressed in law. He asked the CFO if he defended the Integritron contract.
Mr Ligege replied that the decision of the Department had been to abide by the decision of the court.
The Chairperson was not surprised at this response, as the Department had disagreed with NT from the start. He noted the Department had many historic gaps and leakages in its systems. Changes that could be observed did not give much comfort that undesirable audit outcomes were not going to continue. There needed to be discipline and proper sentences needed to be meted out. He asked when letters for recovery of funds had been sent.
Ms Matjele replied that 16 letters had been sent in October 2017.
The Chairperson said it was unacceptable that only 16 letters had been sent, more than two years ago. He instructed Mr Fraser to send out more letters immediately. The unit responsible should be overhauled if necessary. Recoveries simply had to be made.
The remainder of the meeting was closed to non-Members.
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