Covid-19: DA challenges Premier to launch SIU probe into sanitised KZN Procurement Disclosure Report

17 Aug 2020 in Press Statements

The Democratic Alliance (DA) today challenges KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Premier Sihle Zikalala to launch an independent Special Investigative Unit (SIU) probe into the contents of the KZN Covid-19 Procurement Disclosure Report (view here).

The move comes after the document – which outlines expenditure by provincial government departments in response to the current health pandemic – was released on Thursday by the Premier.

While the DA welcomes the release of the information, we remain concerned by the lack of detail, leaving it what we regard as a sanitized document. It is for this reason that we are today calling on the Premier to launch a SIU investigation into every tender mentioned, across all levels of provincial government.

While the various companies who were awarded tenders are given, this is not enough and the Premier needs to ensure that the names of the Directors of these businesses are made available to the SIU so that it can do its work. This is particularly important given the link between the ANC and those who are awarded lucrative government tenders.

Of further concern to the DA are the discrepancies around expenditure, which demand further scrutiny. One such example is the 21 900 digital thermometers procured by KZN’s Department of Education (DoE), at a cost of R2 150 each from 15 different suppliers, at a cost of R47million. This equates to some 15 5000 thermometers more than there are schools in the province. In contrast, KZN’s Department of Health bought 7 200 thermometers at a cost of R15m, at an average cost of R2 080 per digital thermometer, with one supplier only charging R950 per thermometer. Despite this lower cost per item, this company was only asked to supply 700 thermometers. This too needs to be investigated.

The DA welcomes the Premier’s commitment – yet again – to lifestyle audits for politicians and senior departmental officials. We have long called for this to take place in KZN.  What we now need are firm timeframes from the Premier.

During a previous Office of the Premier portfolio committee, I raised the issue of lifestyle audits with the Premier. He told me that provincial government could not proceed until there was a national policy in place. This is completely untrue. There is no legislation which prevents the Premier from launching the audits right now. The DA-led Western Cape government has already done so, which begs the question – why is the Premier stalling?

Of particular concern to the DA is that the Premier seems to be running his own show here in KZN. This is evidenced by the fact that he circulated the Procurement Disclosure Report to the media before tabling or even discussing it with members of the province’s Office of the Premier portfolio committee. This is in direct contravention of the Rules of the KZN Legislature. This is the committee to which the Premier is supposed to account. The fact that he has ignored this and gone ahead with releasing the document raises serious questions around accountability when it comes to the Premier.

The Premier cannot be a law unto himself. I have spoken to the portfolio committee Chairperson, Celiwe Madlopha, who has agreed to call a special committee meeting to discuss these issues.

The DA’s challenge to Premier Zikalala today is to show that he is sincere about ending corruption in the province, by bringing in the SIU. This is the only way to prove beyond any doubt that there has not been corruption when it comes to Covid-19 funding. Last week, the Premier also told the media that KZN’s provincial government took precautionary measures to prevent the abuse of Covid-19 funding, which included pre-audits of some of the procurement while municipalities, entities and departments were asked to report regularly on procurement. If this is the case, then he should have no worries about an SIU audit.

The DA remains committed to ensuring that KZN’s people are afforded absolute transparency when it comes to the public purse. There can be no excuse for anything less.