The Democratic Alliance (DA) in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) today calls for an urgent Special Investigating Unit (SIU) probe into tenders awarded for library books and services by the provincial Department of Arts and Culture (DoAC).
The move comes after the discovery that numerous companies awarded 36 month tenders to supply books to KZN libraries are, in fact, not book sellers.
According to a breakdown list of those who received the contracts – available on the DoAC website – of the 17 awardees listed, only two are legitimate booksellers.
Further investigation by the DA has shown that these two booksellers – namely Logan’s Bookshop and RC Booksellers are a spinoff of Durban-based Vuga Books and are also registered at the same address. The two book sellers are also operational on the same premises by family members.
According to the DoAC website, the list of companies recently awarded book tenders by the Department include the following;
– PSN Travel Frenzy which is a travel agency
– Siyami Consulting which is involved in farming
– Sidakeni Pty Ltd which has previously been awarded KZN government tenders relating to plumbing
– Aziye Solutions PTY LTD – which has also previously been awarded tenders by KZN’s Department of Health
– Mighty Construction and Project Management which is involved in the construction industry and;
– Sdadoms Investment, Dufloma PTY, Lombez Projects and Siphindlela Majojobela PTY LTD, all of which have been linked to previously supplying soil, trees, seeds and seedlings to KZN’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD).
Other companies listed, such as Vegas book sellers PTY LTD, Emangunezini Trading, Zamimpilo Development Trading, Abaphathimbemali Trading, Izimtombizamankomose Trading and Bhekabathiya Trading could not be traced by the DA.
These findings raise very serious questions around the operation of this department and the DA strongly believes that it is further evidence of a culture of endless and ongoing collusive fraud and corruption.
Essentially, reputable booksellers are being side-lined in favour of businesses and companies with no experience in book selling, which are being awarded lucrative tenders. Even more alarming is that these companies have become successful without been accredited by publishers. The question is – how did this happen?
Given that the companies don’t have direct access to purchase books, there is also likely to be massive inflation on the sale of books to the DoAC. The DA estimates that a book costing R50 is likely to be sold to the Department for around R600.
The DA is both shocked and disappointed by this latest shocking discovery. We believe that there needs to be urgent intervention in the form of a rigorous SIU probe.
We also firmly believe that DoAC MEC, Hlengiwe Mavimbela, and her HOD, NP Chonco, need to be suspended pending the outcome of the investigation, which should result in their immediate dismissal from the Department. For too long now, the MEC and her HOD have been getting away with fraud unscathed.
This is also not the first time that KZN’s DoAC has toyed around with the issuing of tenders for library books – conduct which has resulted in 2.8 million KZN learners not having access to new library books since 2019.
Then there are the other serious issues raised by the DA during 2021, which still demand answers including R59 million in irregular expenditure on the Dukuduku Library, the eight modular libraries in KZN which received R640 000 worth of PPE supplies despite not being operational, the purchase of two 65-seater buses – to be used as mobile libraries – which are still standing idle at the KZN Museum Services in Pietermaritzburg and the failure to allow the community access to a multi-million Rand Ngolokodo modular library launched in 2019.
The DA has raised all of these issues with Premier Sihle Zikalala, to no avail. We now call on him to spend less time focusing on ANC factionalism and spend more time and energy on ensuring that his provincial government is free of fraud and corruption.
The time has come for him to act and hold both MEC Mavimbela and her HOD accountable. Their thieving ways must come to an end.