The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries has placed eight officials on precautionary suspension, effective October 8, following a forensic investigation into contracts alleged to have been irregularly awarded by the department's Waste Management Bureau (WMB).
During the audit of the financial statements for the year ended March 31, 2019, the Auditor-General of South Africa (AG) identified a number of tenders that were irregularly awarded.
These included nine tenders awarded by the WMB with a total multiyear contract value of over R2-billion and expenditure for the 2018/19 financial year amounting to R337-million.
Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy mandated the then director-general Nosipho Ngcaba to institute an investigation to ascertain the reasons for the tenders being irregularly awarded.
The investigation considered whether any losses were suffered by the department; whether the department had received value for money; whether any officials or third parties had committed any acts of fraud and/or corruption; and whether any person/s could be held liable in law for the irregular expenditure.
An independent forensic investigation company was appointed to conduct the investigation.
In six of the nine tenders, the investigation found prima facie evidence of irregular appointments having arisen as a result of negligence, misconduct and/or possible fraud and corruption by certain officials of the department.
The department is in the process of taking disciplinary steps in respect of misconduct identified in the report. All system recommendations outlined in the forensic investigation report will also be implemented in due course, it says.
With respect to the three remaining tenders, the investigation found no evidence to indicate misconduct by officials or loss suffered by the department. It was found that the department had received value for money.
As such, the department will seek condonation from the National Treasury for the irregular expenditure incurred in respect of the three tenders.