UNSCRUPULOUS service providers in cahoots with rogue civil servants are swindling the government by leasing glasses for use at presidential guesthouse functions at R200 a glass.
This startling revelation was made by Deputy Minister of Public Works Jeremy Cronin at a joint meeting of Scopa, parliament's finance watchdog, and the public works portfolio committee on measures his ministry was implementing to root out corruption in the embattled department.
Cronin also revealed that his department had incurred more than R3.6-billion in irregular expenditure since 2009 by flouting procurement processes in the leasing of office buildings, including the infamous Middestad office block in Pretoria involving the SAPS and businessman Roux Shabangu.
Cronin told MPs tenderpreneurs, acting in collusion with corrupt officials in the prestige unit of Public Works, had charged R200 per glass each time VIPs were hosted This means public works would fork out R60000 a night just to hire glasses each time a government department hosted 300 guests for dinner at the presidential guesthouse, which is often used for award ceremonies and other similar events.
Cronin said "overzealous officials" were to blame for overpricing goods and services to government departments.
"It was picked up late last year. I don't have the facts before me as to how long it had been occurring ... . it's a smallish indication of, at the very least, a lack of diligence, when departments tender for services.
"There could be more behind it than a lack of diligence. But whatever, it's unforgivable."
Cronin was quick to point out that "the Presidency categorically had nothing to do" with the matter.
Public Works chief financial officer Cox Mokgoro said it was clear officials in his department had colluded with service providers in the exorbitant rental of glasses.
"The investigation is still under way and we will see when the conclusions come out and what recommendations are put forward."
Mokgoro said the matter was being investigated by the Special Investigating Unit, which was looking into allegations of corruption in the prestige unit of his department. The unit is responsible for managing the presidential guesthouse, the ministerial houses in Cape Town and Pretoria as well as parliamentary villages housing MPs, among others.
Public Works director-general Mziwonke Dlabantu earlier presented shocking figures to MPs, including:
ıFruitless and wasteful expenditure of R239-million to rent buildings between 2009 and last year;
ıIrregular expenditure of more than R1.5-billion in the 2012-2013 financial year alone, which involved the SAPS lease. The figure jumps to R3.6-billion when backdated to 2009;
ıR670-million spent without following the relevant supply chain management processes;
ıThe department also incurred fruitless and wasteful expenditure of R4.9-million as VAT had been repaid to non-VAT vendors.
"The figures are quite staggering to say the least," chairman Themba Godi said. "Certainly people do not do these things for nothing; there are personal benefits that accrue."
Dlabantu said his department had investigated 200 cases of financial misconduct committed between 2009 and this year, but only 15 had been referred to the SIU and the SAPS. A total of 89 internal investigations had been concluded but it still had to be decided what action to take against the implicated officials.