OUTA asks Public Protector for action against Bathabile Dlamini
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) believes that the contracts are irregular, were not budgeted for and were deliberately engineered to absorb surplus funds in the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA). OUTA also believes that former Minister Dlamini misled Parliament in her replies about these contracts, to cover up SASSA’s wrongdoing.
“Her answers are not truthful, direct or transparent,” says Dominique Msibi, OUTA’s Portfolio Manager on Special Projects.
The contracts arose from the Project Mikondzo Event Management Services and the Integrated Community Registration Outreach Programme (ICROP), both run by SASSA, which falls under the Department of Social Development. The contracts are SASSA 40/15/BT, for ICROP, and SASSA 42/15/GA, for Project Mikondzo. They were advertised in January and February 2016 respectively and awarded during 2016. Both were for three years.
The main beneficiary of the contracts was Azande Consulting CC, which was the only one of 23 bidders accredited as a service provider for the ICROP project and one of only two on the Mikondzo project. The ICROP price fluctuated between R393 million and R488 million in various documents, while the Mikondzo matter did not have a specific price.
OUTA tracked payments to Azande of R235 million from June 2016 to August 2017.
Both contracts were advertised as calls for businesses to register for accreditation to work on these projects, using an additional SASSA database which was effectively outside the National Treasury’s Central Supplier Database. Parliament immediately raised concerns but these were down played and ridiculed by the Minister. The real concern was never addressed: why did SASSA award single contracts as opposed to spreading the contracts among a group of service providers?
“Former Minister Bathabile Dlamini abused her power by wasting public funds and gambling with the lives of South Africa’s most vulnerable citizens: 17 million of them. Her irresponsible, unconstitutional behaviour and disregard for her responsibilities as a Minister requires strong, decisive and punitive action,” says Msibi.
OUTA presented the Public Protector with evidence which indicates maladministration by SASSA in creating and awarding these contracts. “We appeal to the Public Protector to investigate this matter thoroughly, hold Bathabile Dlamini to account and order the service providers to pay back the stolen money,” says Msibi.
The evidence shows that both tenders were granted without following due process and were for services which could either have been performed in-house or were entirely unnecessary.
The work was cynically presented as community outreach programmes to help the most vulnerable citizens – including children – to access social grants and assistance.
In October 2017, OUTA wrote to SASSA and the Ministry, calling for an investigation. An initial response from SASSA indicated that an investigation was underway but sadly no further response has been received. SASSA's then acting CEO, Pearl Bhengu, has since been relieved of her duties.
Soundclips with comment from Dominique Msibi:
See Msibi’s affidavit to the Public Protector here.
In October 2017, OUTA asked SASSA to investigate (see report here).