Johannesburg – A Limpopo man, who has been listed as one of the beneficiaries of the R932 million personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts, says his name may have been used to defraud the government.
Businessman Mpho Kenny Nesengani said he never received any R1.2m payment as claimed by the provincial department of health’s beneficiary list submitted to the National Treasury.
This came as Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu’s preliminary Covid-19 audit outcomes confirmed this week that R11 billion worth of PPE contracts were marred by possible fraud, irregularities and inflated prices.
He added that many transactions, including over payments of the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) benefits, have been referred to the law enforcement agencies.
The liquor trader, from Mahwelereng township near Mokopane, said he neither received any purchase order nor submitted a quotation to supply and deliver PPE to the Limpopo government.
“I have never submitted any quotation. Even with these PPE things, I only read about them in the newspapers. I am sure they took my company name from their database, because many years ago I once supplied lockers to the department of health, three or four years back. That’s the only thing I know,” Nesengani said.
“I don’t know what happened to the R1m. Either they used a cheque to cash it, or they changed the account number and redirected it to another account which they had access to. If you don’t mind, I can print copies of my bank statements for you.”
The Sunday Independent reported two weeks ago that Limpopo department of health’s supply chain management officials, led by deputy director for purchasing Justice Nepfumbada, allegedly frustrated some service providers out of their contracts and changed the banking details to redirect business and payments to their cronies and relatives.
We also previously reported that some of the hand-picked beneficiaries included the daughter of provincial ANC deputy chairperson Florence Radzilani, the wife of deputy director in Premier Stan Mathabatha’s Office, Eddie Managa, and the daughter of former Sports MEC Onicca Moloi, who is a close friend of Health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba.
Nesengani (44), who operates a liquor store in Mahwelereng, said he heard for the first time that he was R1.2m richer when the PPE beneficiary list was brought to his attention by a Polokwane-based friend last month.
“To be honest, I received a call from someone I owe money who said, ‘how dare you say you are broke when you have such a lot of money? I heard that you were paid R1.2m. I said there is no such. I initially thought she was joking. I then said, send me the list to see for myself. I went through the list, saw millions written next to several names and thought, hey, this is not for people like me.
“I did not see my name because it was number 69. I left it there because I thought it was a joke,” the father of two added.
“The person then called again and said, ‘why are you ignoring me. I sent you the list and you are not saying anything. I said I can’t see the name. I checked again and saw Muthahidini General Trading, which is my company. And the director is MF Nesengani. Obviously it’s me.They said I have already been paid R1.2m. I didn’t even get an order. I got nothing. My bank account is empty. I just put in R100 every month so that the bank does not shut it down. That money never reached my account.”
The businessman said while he regularly submitted quotations to various municipalities, he did not tender for PPE because he had very little knowledge of it.
“I just read about PPE in the papers, that masks and other equipment must be supplied.
“I thought it’s something the government procured directly. I know nothing about PPE,” he added.
Nesengani said the fraudulent use of his name has created distrust between him and his family, who suspected that he was withholding money, as well as between him and his creditors, who believed he was fabricating stories to avoid paying them.
“What people see on that list is what they think is the truth. “Nobody believes me.
“Now, due to Covid-19, my liquor business was not operating.
“When you ask people to loan you money to buy stock, they say, no, you have a million rand. It’s demoralising.”
The businessman said while he was shocked, he did not take it up with the department because he felt he would be taken from pillar to post.
Limpopo department of health spokesperson Neil Shikwambana declined to comment on allegations that Nesengani’s name was used to defraud the government.
He cited the Special Investigating Unit’s (SIU) countrywide probe into fraudulent and irregular PPE procurement by government departments and other state entities.
“The department has further noted that following the SIU proclamation on matters affecting irregularities of PPEs tenders by the president, the premier has handed over all matters involving the three big departments, i.e; Health, Education and COGHSTA to SIU and they are currently busy with the Investigations,” Shikwambana said.
“The department has further submitted to Treasury the entire list of bidders, contracts, those who have managed to deliver as per their orders, those who have been paid and also the amounts paid to bidders. Treasury has equally submitted the same information to the Special Investigating Unit. The department therefore feels that it will be incorrect to start responding to each and every individual allegation as raised below when all these matters are already being investigated by the SIU.”
Releasing his Covid-19 audit report on Wednesday, the auditor-general said some people tried to rationalise potential fraud.
Kimi Makwetu said they picked up inflated payments, payments for undelivered PPE, payments to non-tax compliant companies and conflicts of interest, among others.
“There were many instances where the unit price for some of these items of PPE, whether it was masks, or anyone of the items that fall under PPE, some of them were bought at prices significantly higher than what National Treasury had advised… 200% more and in some instances five times more,” Makwetu said.
“Areas of conflict of interest, issues of inadequate or inaccurate specifications and evaluation criteria, or inappropriate application of that criteria are some of those things that our team has already identified, as well as PPE received and paid but they were not already ordered at the beginning.”
He said his office scrutinised R147 billion allocated to fight the pandemic. He said R68bn of it had been spent as of July this year.
At least R57bn of the R68bn had been spent on the UIF benefits and the South African Social Security Agency’s (Sassa) R350 relief of social distress grants, while R11bn was spent on PPE.
The balance was still in the bank accounts controlled by the National Treasury, he said. Makwetu also revealed that 30 000 government employees applied for the relief of social distress funds.
“The data analysis that we have done across all of these systems has pointed to us that there is still a prevalence of a high risk of fraud and abuse to these funds if the requisite steps are not taken.
Labour and Employment Minister Thulas Nxesi immediately put UIF Commissioner, Teboho Maruping, and his senior management team on precautionary suspension following the release of the AG’s report.