The Democratic Alliance (DA) is extremely disappointed that despite a meeting of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN’s) social development portfolio committee earlier today, members are yet to receive copies of the recently released forensic audit into the Department’s R22million ‘blanket saga’.
The saga relates to corruption within the Department as a result of the procurement of blankets for the poor as part of Covid-19 relief funding. The audit was called for by KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala.
To date, there has been a briefing in the form of an Executive Summary from the Premier, with the DA led to believe that the full report would be sent to the DSD to deal with the findings and that today’s meeting would see the report shared with the portfolio committee. Yet this did not happen.
When this was queried with committee Chairperson, Hon Swartbooi-Ntombela, we were told that the committee was not the author of the report, but rather Premier Sihle Zikalala. It is now up to the DA to make the request. This makes no sense when the very purpose of a portfolio committee is to act as a watchdog over a particular Department and to guide them in the right direction.
Instead, what we had today was MEC Nonhlanhla Khoza welcoming the report and stating that the DSD had responded to all the recommendations. The HOD then reported on what the DSD had done to date. This presentation was sent to Members, via Whatsapp – literally during the meeting.
The question is – how can the committee possibly believe the MEC and her HOD when we are yet to see the report – let alone the recommendations? Of further concern to the DA are MEC Khoza’s comments in the following regard;
· Her admittance that the DSD cannot take action against the previous HOD as he is no longer within the Department;
• Her failure to answer the question regarding whose responsibility it is to take action against the previous HOD; and
· Her admittance that the DSD’s procurement processes and systems to monitor and evaluate this are not up to scratch.
Then there is the HOD’s refusal to confirm who the criminal cases are against at this stage while also refusing to reveal the details of an individual who resigned after the forensic report was received by the Department.
Today, the HOD basically blamed the corruption within this Department on the fact that they did not have a Supply Chain Director at the time. This is a poor excuse. If the DSD was in fact serious about fraud and corruption, it would ensure that this is not the case and that all senior positions are filled instead of having vacancies which span years and years
The DA will write to MEC Khoza regarding several concerns raised today. We will also request that the Premier release a copy of the actual forensic report. If indeed there is nothing more to hide, we expect this to take place without further delay.