Public protector condemns Sassa for tender bungle that left destitute hungry

23 October 2021 - 13:01
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has found Sassa guilty of maladministration which resulted in failure to distribute food parcels to the destitute.
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has found Sassa guilty of maladministration which resulted in failure to distribute food parcels to the destitute.
Image: South African Government via Twitter

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has slated the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) for a food parcel tender bungle that left the destitute hungry.

Mkhwebane made the scathing finding on Friday after an investigation prompted by advocate Paul Hoffman, of the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa, in July 2020.

Hoffman complained that “Sassa advertised a tender for the appointment of new service providers for the distribution of food parcels for the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Western Cape provinces from June 14 2019 to July 5 2019” but cancelled it “as a result of technical problems”.

“Sassa failed to finalise the tender process towards the end of 2019 and the tender was only re-advertised on January 17 2020,” Hoffman told Mkhwebane.

“This obligated Sassa to request the previously appointed service providers to temporarily extend their services in the said provinces for a period of three months.”

Hoffman said Sassa then approached the National Treasury for a deviation in the tender process to temporarily appoint service providers for another six months while finalising the tender process.  

He said the Treasury approved the request but Sassa only concluded the appointment in April 2020 “and only for a three-month period ... Sassa thus distributed no food parcels in the six provinces from November 2019 to March 2020.

“The appointed service providers were stuck with huge stockpiles of food in warehouses, due to the uncertainty about the extension of their contracts.

“Sassa therefore failed to deliver services and the relief of social distress programme as a large number of households were left without food parcels during a critical time.”

Hoffman said Sassa’s failure to deliver food to the destitute was “improper, constitutes maladministration and caused prejudice”.

Mkhwebane said her investigation “confirmed that there was, indeed, undue delay by Sassa in awarding new contracts to service providers for distribution of food” in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

She said this resulted in the failure to distribute food parcels in the four provinces between November 2019 and March 2020.

“The allegation that Sassa’s conduct was improper, constitutes maladministration and caused prejudice is also substantiated,” Mkhwebane ruled.

She said there was a lack of proper planning to execute the bid evaluation and adjudication of the food distribution tender.

This was “aggravated by the lack of proper internal communication between supply chain management, the bid evaluation committee and the bid adjudication committee with regards to who was responsible to extend the validity period of the bid”.

Mkhwebane added: “The fairness in bidding was compromised by the fact that Sassa gave inadequate time for bidders to respond to the extension of the 90 days validity period for bids.

“The request to agree to an extension was only sent to the bidders hours before the bid would expire. The compromised bidding process eventually culminated in the delay of the distribution of food parcels in the six provinces for a period of five months.

“Sassa incurred financial losses in terms of accommodation for two months and subsistence and travel allowances for nine bid evaluation committee members at the St George's Hotel, as well as transport costs to transport the tender documents from Sassa head office to the St George's Hotel.”

As a remedy, Mkhwebane said the Sassa CEO must ensure that all officials involved in supply chain management, and members of the bid committees, receive relevant training within 90 days.

“The CEO must also initiate disciplinary action in accordance with the recommendations made in the internal investigation report, within 60 days from the date of this report, and disclose wasteful expenditure incurred by Sassa to National Treasury,” said Mkhwebane.

“Lastly, the CEO must submit a report on the implementation of the remedial action taken to the minister of social development and the acting director-general of the department of social development within 60 days from the date of this report.”

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