Head of KZN Social Development Department, Nelisiwe Vilakazi.
KA waZulu-Natal social development official who was suspended after being linked to the irregular procurement of 2020 blankets worth R22 million, has been allowed to return to work.
Among other things, officials have been accused of procuring 48,000 blankets at inflated prices, with some suppliers paying in advance in violation of the treasury’s procurement guidelines.
Although disciplinary proceedings are underway, sources said the decision to bring the officer back to work was because he was “paid to sit at home”.
“He has been suspended for almost three years and there is no indication that the disciplinary process will end anytime soon. It is felt that he should continue working while the disciplinary process continues,” a source in the department said.
The officials, who included the chief director, were charged following a forensic investigation conducted by the treasury.
When procuring the blankets, the department stated that the items were part of the department’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak.
But an investigation by the Special Investigative Unit (SIU) found that while the department used emergency procurement procedures when purchasing blankets, 43,000 of the 48,000 blankets had not been distributed more than a year after they were purchased.
The SIU, which has since recovered R22 million from the company that supplied the blankets, has recommended that some officials should face criminal charges. But the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) refused to prosecute the official.
Briefing the KwaZulu-Natal portfolio committee on social development during a recent committee meeting, the head of the provincial social development department, Nelisiwe Vilakazi, blamed the delay in the conclusion of the internal disciplinary process on what he described as Stalingrad tactics used by the officials involved.
The suspended official has received a letter telling him to report to work “in early April”, according to a source in the department.
The officer will not work in the unit that existed before the indictment.
Provincial social development spokesperson Mhlaba Memela said the department must first confirm with the chairman of the disciplinary committee before commenting on the matter.
The officer’s return comes a week after the Public Service Commission (PSC) condemned government departments for failing to ensure that the disciplinary process was completed on time. In a report released on Thursday, the PSC warned against ineffective and flawed disciplinary processes, saying they cost the government dearly. Therefore, the disciplinary process should be carried out quickly, fairly and consistently,” the PSC report said. – The Witness