….article July 20…..
Parliament slaps Treasury on PPE procurement……
Last week a corruption weary public learnt that Parliament’s Finance Standing Committee were as outraged as them on the subject of state PPE purchasing arrangements. The complaints started as case after case of cronyism was aired by the media picked up when the additional Supplementary Budget was being processed through Parliament at committee stage.
This furore was heightened by the appearance of somewhat arrogant Zulu clansman found by the media who had allegedly included himself in the R500m COVID 19 emergency relief allocation. It was subsequently reported that after finding out that his apparent initiative was unacceptable, he may have then sold his successful tender bid to another party for R80m.
The fact that the royal person told everybody that he was attempting to benefit his tribal responsibilities did not wash with anybody, according to press reports and interviews. The case for his innocence was not helped after a TV interview with the smiling gentleman who seemed not to understand that his problem was that his daughter was spokesperson for the President. When it came to tendering, he said he thought all persons were equal.
Thank goodness this was all exposed in time but the whole affair struck the same chord with MPs that has being plaguing South Africa for years. This same problem was illustrated again by ANC secretary general Ace Magashule who reasoned, when discovered dipping into the same PPE pot with the state, that his sons who had been named as part of a Free State PPE tender process, “had the right to participate in the economy as do any other persons and small businesses”.
As a result of these cases, MPs across party lines in Parliament have called upon Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni, and his Treasury officials to come back to Parliament and give the background on all COVID 19 disbursements and some idea of who is responsible for what and Treasury understands as the parameters for state tendering. This will final stand off presumably will take place sometime after the short recess in September.
Not that the President did anything wrong, nor National Treasury either, but it just seems that month after month Treasury signs off money but has no idea of, or even responsibility for, what happens once the allocations are made. MPs have complained that Treasury merely seems to call upon the Auditor General, one year later, in order to reconcile with an annual report, opposition parties complained.
In the first case, instead of landing up as part of the small business developmental process, the award nearly went to a chief exercising grace upon his fiefdom which it appears to consist of some forty or fifty persons, it was reported. On such subjects, Parliament got specifically involved again when the Finance Minister came to the point where he had to answer questions during the closing debate on the Special Adjustment Appropriation Budget Bill, which had allowed for all the COVID 19 funding in the first place.
Whilst all of this has been rather a slap in the face of Minister of Health Mkhize personally, it must also have been a shock for the Department of Health as well, bearing in mind that the NHI scheme is supposed to have a centralised “transversal” procurement system in place in a few years’ time where such things cannot be allowed to happen.
Furthermore, the Ministry of Finance has been for years planning a Procurement Bill allowing for centralised purchasing when the budget for a centralised computer system can be afforded, so Minister Mboweni may have got some inkling of what the problems will be when it comes to political interference being wielded amongst those apparently without a moral understanding of what is required in the case of government process.
Fired in anger
That the Covid-19 emergency provision, or officially the Adjustment Appropriation Budget, would be passed by the National Assembly was never in doubt. It had to be passed. But for the first reading of the Bill, the vote was 226 in favour with 129 against recorded as a token protest and consequently the Bill was carried through on the back of the ANC numbers in the House.
The Bill from Treasury, being a Money Bill, cannot be stopped by Parliament but a warning shot had therefore been fired at treasury officials and the Minister.