Premier explains R2.2m contract bill: Daily Dispatch

Sorry for ‘misleading’ legislature about payment

PREMIER Phumulo Masualle’s office has admitted it “misled” the Bhisho legislature when it claimed a service provider had not been paid in full before completing the contract.

The company had in fact been paid the full contract amount of R2.2-million before completing its contract scheduled to run until June next year.

Senior officials from the office of the premier (OTP) have since written to the legislature’s OTP portfolio committee, apologising for “misleading” it over irregular payments of R1.8-million.

The money was paid on March 25 to the Johannesburg-based company which installed a telephone line system which was not yet fully functional.

The Daily Dispatch reported last month Internet Solutions (Pty) Ltd had a two-year contract with the OTP ending in June 2016.

They were paid their full R2.2-million bill, more than a year before completing their contract term.

At a committee meeting last month, officials denied the company had been paid in full.

The Dispatch previously reported telephone calls to the OTP had gone unanswered for over five months due to a technical glitch.

Listed landlines had been “out of order” since last November after a new system was installed and the old 040 number made redundant.

In an earlier statement, OTP said the old 040 numbers had been “inaccessible” because OTP “was moving with the times by improving their communication technology”.

It later transpired Masualle’s office had indeed paid the service provider in full despite challenges with the contract.

Finance head Nomawethu Ngcakani, who was acting directorgeneral at the time, claimed Internet Solutions had “not yet been paid a cent” and would only be paid once all the telephones were fully operational.

This despite the company confirming it had been paid in full.

“In terms of our records we have not paid them. The reason I know this is because I am the one who said, before we pay we must see the phones are working,” said Ngcakani at the time.

However she recanted in a letter to committee chair Sicelo Gqobana.

“I acknowledge in the committee meeting I inadvertently refuted that payment had been made.

“At the time the payment was being processed, I had already assumed duty as acting DG and there was an acting CFO whose office approved this.

“I hereby humbly retract the statement I made,” wrote Ngcakani.

Newly appointed provincial DG Marion Mbina-Mthembu said the amount as an irregular expenditure.

“As this is an irregular expenditure, we are compelled to deal with the responsible officials. Letters have been prepared for them to explain themselves,” she wrote.

During a house sitting this week, Masualle described this as “a saga” which had been “an embarrassment” to his office. He said the OTP had asked for the R1.8-million overpayment to be reversed.

Gqobana described this as a typical case of “fiscal dumping” ahead of financial year-end in March.

DA MPL Edmund van Vuuren said this irregular payment “is either as a result of dishonesty or incompetency, or made because of capacity issues”.— asandan@dispatch.co.za