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PAC: MILLIONAIRES WERE BORN OUT OF COVID-19

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MBABANE – The ‘sense of urgency’ excuse from government officials when probed by the PAC, particularly on COVID-19 funds, gave birth to millionaires.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) came across the same excuse when probing the Ministry of Education and Training yesterday, with the Principal Secretary, Bhekithemba Gama, constantly reminding members of the committee that they should be mindful that things occurred at the height of the virus and many decisions were made out of pressure.

Advantage

Chairman of the PAC MP Musa Kunene concluded that millionaires were born at the height of COVID-19, because businesspeople were taking advantage of the urgency since procurement policies were skipped, while government was either overcharged or made to pay for services that were never rendered. This emanated from a query of escalating costs of servicing a Sharp photocopier machine, which was provided by Madzandza Suppliers. The monthly service fees were found to have escalated to an extent of costing the ministry more than E438 134 and this amount exceeded provisions of the contract between the two parties, hence the ministry was overcharged E210 626. The contract between the supplier and the ministry provided that the former would provide maintenance services for the malfunctional copier on a monthly basis and would charge E4 599 for monthly routine service, E12 850 for major service quarterly and E0.15 per copy. This translates to a maximum of E26 647 per quarter for service charges.

However, a concern from the auditor general (AG) was that government was made to pay for more than what was required. Gama, in his response, told the committee that at the height of COVID-19, everybody was running and there was little or no time for consultations and decisions were informed by the urgency to keep operations going while also ensuring safety of the ministry’s personnel. He repeated the same statement when it emerged that the ministry paid E506 700 for unauthorised sterilisation and fumigation services, which was not part of what the service provider was contracted for. KOSEL-CCTV was contracted by the ministry for the financial year 2020/2021 to provide electronic security services for CCTV maintenance of the ministry’s access control system and to conduct monthly servicing and general maintenance of the ministry’s electronic security system.

Tender

Kunene shared that this was in the same fashion as the procurement of over E300 000 alcohol by the Sincephetelo Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (SMVAF) whose tender was awarded to a car body parts company. He revealed that while people were losing their loved ones to COVID-19, others were taking advantage of the situation to milk from government as procurement processes were not followed and funds in most of the government ministries were not accounted for. “I bet that even a person who owns a butchery would have had something to supply outside of butchery supplies,” he said. Manzini Region MP Busisiwe Mavimbela said there was an issue of deviation from the contract as far as the photocopier query was concerned, which should be supported by documents that state exactly the service paid for by government and her submission was uniform with that of Mbabane West MP Musa Zwane. Mangcongco MP Oneboy Zikalala said the PS should get in contact with the supplier and advice it that the PAC wanted the money recovered, much to the amusement of the House. The machine has since been forwarded to government stores where it would be auctioned as revealed by Gama.

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