Debate on a Matter of Public Importance: On the Allegations of Corruption, Particularly About the Covid-19 Expenditure
KWAZULU-NATAL PROVINCIAL LEGISLATURE
THURSDAY 3rd SEPTEMBER 2020: VIRTUAL/HYBRID
BY: HON VF HLABISA: LEADER OF THE OFFICIAL OPPOSITION IN KZN AND PRESIDENT OF THE IFP
When people entrust us with a responsibility of taking care of their purse and their wellbeing as public representatives, they are giving to us the most sacred and diligent honour of a position of trust. They expect us to do nothing else but be trustworthy. Public office is a mandate of servanthood and a position of trust. It is a position that calls for integrity and high levels of ethical morality. The question is, do we all live up to that expectation or do we talk right and walk left. That is what this debate is about today. Can people trust this government in office? Can people trust this administration?
Unfortunately, Covid-19 has unleashed the most dishonourable behaviour, the most unethical character traits, amongst some in government who have been entrusted with these high positions of trust. The integrity of our government has been greatly questioned and seriously shaken. The trust deficit between government and communities, which was already at stake, has been widely shifted. The honour of public office has been put close to non-erasable question marks and doubts in the minds of many. All this happens because of the greedy actions of people, who earn millions in salaries, but instead of serving our people, they decided to line their pockets with the sweat money and blood money of our people. The topic at hand should not suggest that these matters are allegations. No, they are not allegations anymore, but facts that have already been proved by the AG and uncovered by investigations. Money belonging to the state has been squandered.
When the State President announced the State of Disaster in March this year, the vultures saw the opportunity of short-cuts to government funds and quickly positioned themselves for looting. Companies that never existed were quickly registered. Corruption networks were woven. Covid-19 procurement laid bare the kind of character of rot that had long existed in some circles of government administration. It is not that these tendencies were new to the operations of our administration in our country and the province. But when wrongdoing does not get properly punished, at the right time, when wrongdoing gets rewarded instead of facing its consequences, when wrongdoing gets protected, the result is perpetuation of the rot, like we have recently seen happening.
To this day, this province is still awaiting consequences for those who helped themselves to Ithala bank funds and bought themselves farms and hotels. This dates way back. This province is still awaiting consequences for those who helped themselves to assistance that was meant for the poor in the Ntambanana-Sivananda project. The Hon. MEC for Education, Hon. Mshengu, has recently announced the findings of an investigation of the sanitary project corruption that happened way back in 2016. This was a noble project but was turned sour by corruption and greed.
Failure to abide by Instruction Note 5 issued by National Treasury in this province, and the abuse of Covid-19 emergency procurement provisions by the Social Development Department has resulted in irregular expenditure amounting to millions of rand. Some of these irregular activities were deliberately aimed at looting state coffers, and included:
- Issuing of orders for PPEs before approval by Accounting Officers;
- Inflating unit prices of items far above amounts regulated by National Treasury;
- Paying service providers in advance, before they have rendered the service.
Notwithstanding what the Premier has recently said, the province needlessly purchased 48 000 blankets under the pretext of Covid-19, but only utilised 4 982 blankets. All 48 000 blankets were purchased at inflated prizes. This is part of the cancer in our Province
The Covid-preneurs of this province were running around like mad animals behind the services to be rendered by departments for Covid-19 compliance, especially the education and social development departments. When the news of inflated prices started surfacing about the JoJo tanks for the Education Department, to the effect that Education was purchasing JoJo tanks at R170 000 each, on 18 June 2020, the Department of education issued a statement denying this. In their statement, the Department stated that they were spending R28 000 per 5 000 litre water tank. The next day, on 19 June 2020, Rand Water issued a statement setting the record straight on the price of the 5 000 litre water tanks, as between R4500 and R5400. Rand Water refuted the R28 000 story. This is the rot in our Province.
Be that as it may, it has to be noted that to this day, most of these water tanks have never been filled with water, because the Covid-preneurs contracted to supply them left the tanks on the floor without any stands. These people were paid in full to provide a service, but they never completed it.
Hon. Speaker, South Africa is so full of drama when it comes to mismanagement of resources, mismanagement of funds and corruption. Food parcels that were intended for the vulnerable and poor people, some of it ended up in the households of councillors and their friends and relatives. Yet, the destitute for whom this was meant, remained hungry and hopeless. Punishment for the crimes committed in our administration is very weak or non-existent. When one has committed an offence in one Department or level of government, they simply dig holes and disappear. A few weeks or months later, they submarine themselves and resurface in another Department or government level. Because this has been allowed to continue unabated, it has now become normal practice and a habit to all culprits in our administration.
Just yesterday, the Auditor-General issued the results of his audit of the Covid-19 R500 billion fund. In his own words, he said, the audit had uncovered “frightening revelations” of mismanaged spending.
Under these circumstances, as we move forward, we need to be hard on greedy people who loot the state. We must walk the talk, otherwise this Legislature will remain accused no. 1 on corruption.
I thank you.