EASTERN Cape civil servants and their close family members scored about R1-billion in government tenders during the past financial year.
Auditor-general Terence Nombembe made the shocking findings in the 2010/11 provincial audit outcome for the Eastern Cape.
Legislation does not prohibit officials or family members from securing tenders.
But Nombembe found civil servants and their family members often flouted supply chain regulations to scoop government contracts.
In six departments, suppliers cashed in 485 contracts worth R891-million. These were irregularly awarded as no declarations of interests were made. They involved officials, spouses and family members.
The report, which paints a widespread picture of profiteering and abuse of public money, was released to the Eastern Cape Legislature in Bhisho on Tuesday.
Nombembe warned the pilfering of public money was getting worse in the Eastern Cape. "This is evidenced by the number of regressions that are prevalent year-on-year and the related lack of progress on key commitments,” the report reads.
Evidence gathered by the auditor-general found 637 tenders were awarded to civil servants, totalling R924-million. In these, 169 officials were found to be moonlighting with contacts worth R70-million. An additional R55- million was channelled to spouses or family members.
In one case, an economic development and environmental affairs official – who sat on the tender committee – won a R486000 tender.
The DA’s shadow MEC for finance, Bobby Stevenson, said corruption and maladministration were clearly rife in the province.
"You have less money for job-enhancing projects such as roads and infrastructure, which are the lifeblood of our economy.”
Nombembe suggested disciplinary action against civil servants and a tightening of government procurement systems. Heeding this call, the Eastern Cape government is drafting a policy to bar officials from doing business with the provincial departments.
The new policy also comes two weeks after the auditor-general indicated municipal officials, councillors and their families pocketed nearly R100-million of government tenders during the same fiscal year.
Premier Noxolo Kiviet has said the provincial government would lobby to outlaw tenderpreneurs.
However, COPE MPL Mbulelo Ntenjwa said he would only believe this when the policy was implemented.
"When these reports come out every year, it is the same promises. It is always just talk.”
He described the Eastern Cape as being "cancerous” with corruption.
"Everyone is just trying to grab as much money as possible. It is disappointing and the province is regressing,” he said.
The overall fleecing of state money was linked to the Education Department, according to the auditor-general’s report. Companies that supplied the department with services, totalling R793-million, were found to have a direct connection with the provincial authority’s supply chain unit.
ANC provincial spokesman Mlibo Qoboshiyane appealed to businesses to run corruption-free companies.
"We are confident the policy being finalised will go a long way in eradicating this bad conduct.”
Corrupt officials were "killing” emerging businesses. "This is against the vision of the ANC ... employees must serve the people.”
Qoboshiyane said officials used their knowledge of the departments to win tenders and even draw up specifications. "They know then that they will win the tender ... it is illegal and shows bad morals and ethics.”
The report also shows that government departments did not always obtain three quotes – in line with regulations – when awarding tenders.
And R84-million worth of work was done by eight departments without being approved.
Stevenson said it was a tragedy that no action was being taken against corrupt officials. "There is no deterrent, hence the repetitive findings in this report,” he said.