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The City of Joburg (CoJ) ombudsman’s office is incurring irregular expenditure barely a year after being established. In the 2015/16 financial year, the office had R9.9 million in irregular expenditure, according to an unaudited annual financial statement (AFS) seen by The Star. Established in 2013 and functioning since last year, the office oversees all complaints related to acts of maladministration in the city, including acts that infringe on the constitutional rights of citizens. City spokesperson Nthatisi Modingoane said the city could not comment on the report, as the 2015/16 AFS was not yet public. According to the report, the city irregularly awarded three contracts to information, communication and technology companies when the office was being set-up.
The companies – Dimension Data, EOH and Yeo Technologies – were appointed through regulation Section 36 of the supply chain management policy. Section 36 allows for certain contracts to be awarded without going out to tender where it is considered impractical or in cases of emergencies. Dimension Data and Yeo Technologies were awarded R3.9m and R5.1m contracts respectively, to set up ICT infrastructure for the new office “and its business operations”. EOH received R792 800 to set up infrastructure cabling for the office. The unaudited AFS states that the justification for the city to use Section 36 in appointing the contractors was inadequate. “The incorporation of the Ombudsman’s Office ought to have been adequately planned for and hence justification is inadequate. It was not impossible, neither was it impractical for CoJ to follow the official procurement process, hence the deviation is contrary to Reg 36 (1)(a)(v),” the report reads.
CoJ MMC for finance Rabelani Dagada said he would not comment on the provisional audit findings. However, he did threaten to crack the whip on officials implicated in the irregular expenditure. He said: “We are going to take the audit report very, very seriously. Where there is dereliction of duty or frivolous behaviour, appropriate action will be taken – very harsh steps will be taken. That much I can tell you.” Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu is expected to release his audit findings early next year. The office has already received a cold shoulder from mayor Herman Mashaba. During his election campaign in July year, Mashaba described the office as a “toothless and blind watchdog”. Modingoane pointed out that the contracts had expired but would be investigated by the city’s forensic investigation unit, should it be identified in the AFS. He said any irregular expenditure classified as irregular expenditure in the AFS was referred to the forensic unit for investigation. “This investigation will determine, among other things, the basis upon which the irregular expenditure was incurred,” he said.