Dr JS Moroka local municipality in Mpumalanga is our zero this week. A procurement officer employed at the municipality is under investigation for allegedly awarding a contract – at an inflated cost – to her husband. Corruption Watch asks: why was this allowed to happen?

A mistaken email, followed by speedy reporting by a whistle blower to Corruption Watch, have resulted in some very dodgy spending being exposed at Dr JS Moroka Municipality near Witbank, Mpumalanga.

Greg Dinwoodie is an accounting officer for Selectech, a laboratory equipment company in Johannesburg that has supplied special glass vials that help to test drinking water to JS Moroka for over a year. These vials are commonly used by municipal water works, particularly those in small towns where water often comes from boreholes and rivers.

In October last year, Dinwoodie received a strange email that included an official purchasing order invoice for a set of 12 vials, valued at R24 000. Because his own company had supplied the same equipment for some time to the municipality, for only R2 000 per set, he quickly realised that something was not right.

The email was meant to be between the municipality and another company, Sinqobile & Jose, but was sent to Dinwoodie by mistake by someone at the municipality. He immediately reported the matter to Corruption Watch and sent copies of the invoices – one showing that Seletech charged the municipality R2 000 for the vials and one showing that Sinqobile & Jose were charging the municipality R24 000 for the very same product.

A short while before receiving the email, Seletech had received an order as usual from JS Moroka, but this time with an added instruction to deliver the vials not to the municipality – as it had done numerous times before – but to the offices of Sinqobile & Jose. It was asked to give the package to a man called “Sipho”.

On investigating, Corruption Watch discovered that the procurement officer at the municipality who signed off on the R24 000 payment to Sinqobile & Jose was a woman by the name of Rabelani Thukwana. She was married to Sipho Thukwana – the same person to whom Seletech was asked to deliver the set of vials last year and to whom Sinqobile & Jose is registered.

The municipality’s supply chain management and procurement policy, which is available on its website, state clearly the terms for awarding contracts of more than R2 000 to a close family member of a public service employee. A condition in the policy says that the potential conflict of interest must be disclosed before such a contract is entered into, along with details of the family member who is employed at the municipality, their position and the amount of the contract awarded to the relative.

Municipality’s response

Corruption Watch contacted Thukwana in writing to ask her if her relationship with Sipho was disclosed to her employer. She was also asked why she authorised a payment of R24 000 for a product that could be supplied for R2 000 by a service provider the municipality had trusted for over a year.

She referred all questions to the municipal manager, Zamani Mcineka, who has since responded in writing to say that he was investigating the matter. The claims, he said, had also been brought to the attention of the municipality’s accounting officer and chief financial officer. Despite promising to respond to Corruption Watch by 22 March, Mcineka has not done so. Several attempts to get a response were also not successful.

Corruption Watch will continue to monitor the progress of this internal investigation and will report the outcome.

Excerpt
Dr JS Moroka local municipality in Mpumalanga is our zero this week. A procurement officer employed at the municipality is under investigation for allegedly awarding a contract – at an inflated cost – to her husband. Corruption Watch asks: why was this allowed to happen?
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