Home News Controversial security tender under spotlight

Controversial security tender under spotlight

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Cope has reported the latest multimillion-rand security tender that was awarded by the Northern Cape Department of Health for investigation by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse, the Special Investigating Unit, the Provincial Treasury and the auditor-general.

Security guards say they have been left in the dark with regard to outstanding payments. Picture: Soraya Crowie

COPE 2024 national and provincial election candidate Pakes Dikgetsi has reported the latest multimillion-rand security tender that was awarded by the Northern Cape Department of Health for investigation by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), the Provincial Treasury and the auditor-general.

The new service provider was appointed to provide security guarding services for health facilities in the Province from May 1 for a period of 14 months.

Security guards have, however, indicated that they have not signed any contracts yet.

“We are being left in the dark regarding outstanding salaries. Our former employer, Defensor Electronic Security Services, indicated that they are unable to pay us because they are owed money by the Department of Health,” said the security guards.

Defensor Security claims that it is owed in excess of R250 million in respect of outstanding payments and damages.

The general manager of Defensor Electronic Security Systems, Gavin Benbrook, this week requested the Department of Health to provide the criteria that were used to absorb guards, as only 80 percent of staff would be selected, as well as their Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority numbers.

He also questioned the reasons why the remaining 20 percent of workers would not be absorbed.

Benbrook urgently requested a remittance notice for all outstanding monies owed or a confirmation letter from the head of department or chief financial officer as to when these payments would be settled.

“We also require written confirmation that all absorbed staff have been registered with the medical aid, as payments must be made in advance.”

Dikgetsi requested an investigation into unauthorised, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure where tender processes were allegedly flouted.

“The security contract was awarded by way of a self-created emergency deviation as the department had more than two years to advertise the tender. The tender was cancelled twice due to allegations of irregularity,” said Dikgetsi.

“The tender to the new service provider was piggy-backed on a tender that was awarded by the Department of Roads and Public Works in 2022, where the terms of the transition are alarmingly shrouded in secrecy.”

He added that the tender was initially advertised for five districts but was consolidated into one tender worth over R20 million per month to benefit a sole service provider.

“The contract was awarded without a competitive bidding procedure in a seriously controversial, blatant disregard of the Public Finance Management Act. No due diligence was done on the company in terms of tax compliance and capability to deliver. The same company was appointed by two other departments in a similar fashion, where it relied on inside connections and close relationships with the political leadership.”

Dikgetsi believed that the security contract was “highly inflated” and that it exposed the department to “serious financial risks”.

Outa said it would assess the information provided to them by a whistle-blower this week.

“This is not the first complaint that we received against the Northern Cape Department of Health. We will refer the matter for further investigation to the SIU and the Information Regulator if necessary. We will investigate whether taxpayers’ money was placed at risk with both security contracts that were awarded to Defensor Security as well as the new service provider,” said Outa.

The senior manager of media relations at the Auditor-General of South Africa, Africa Boso, confirmed receipt of the complaint into the procurement of security services at the Northern Cape Department of Health.

“We have requested Mr Dikgetsi to provide more specific information. We wish to encourage those with oversight responsibility to follow set processes in legislation to act on alleged wrongdoing. Once we receive further details, we will consider and assess his request in line with our standing processes and communicate the decision to him,” said Boso.

SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago added that they would evaluate the matter if they were convinced that there was “something to investigate”.

The spokesperson for the provincial Department of Economic Development and Tourism, Ali Diteme, stated that the Provincial Treasury played no role in processing and approving any procurement deviation of other state organs.

“That function and legal authority rests with each state organ. The accounting authority of each department has the authority to approve deviations, it is not the responsibility of the Provincial Treasury. Procurement is an independent administrative process that operates outside of the political realm.”

Diteme encouraged anyone with evidence of corruption and wrongdoing to report it to law enforcement agencies.

“The Department of Health complied with the reporting requirements to Treasury.”

Diteme, however, indicated that the extension of the contract with Defensor Electronic Security Systems on a month-month basis after the contract ended in 2020 was classified and disclosed as irregular expenditure.

Northern Cape Department of Health spokesperson Lulu Mxekezo stated that they were committed to the administration of justice and were willing to co-operate with any investigation.

“It is against this background that we give respect to the process initiated. We reserve our right to respond at the appropriate time and at the appropriate forum should a need arise,” said Mxekezo.

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