Lesufi denies that his friends, family or close colleagues benefited from R431m schools sanitation tender

29 January 2021 - 07:30 By unathi nkanjeni
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Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi.
Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi.
Image: TimesLIVE/Nico Gous

Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi says none of his family, friends or close political colleagues benefited from the R431m tenders meant for schools sanitation in the province.

This week, a report compiled by the head of department and CFO revealed alleged dodgy spending of about R431m for decontamination, disinfection and cleaning of educational facilities commenced in June 2020 in preparation for the opening of schools on June 8.

The process involved 2,207 schools and 38 administration buildings. It was alleged that a number of companies awarded tenders to sanitise schools did not have any expertise and experience and were not part of the cleaning industry.

Responding to the report, Lesufi said he was unaware of it, and promised to take action.

On Thursday, One SA movement leader Mmusi Maimane posed 12 questions to Lesufi on Twitter, calling for him to be “open and transparent”. 

In one of the questions, Maimane asked Lesufi if any of the individuals involved in the awarding and receipt of the tender deal were linked to the MEC.

“No, neither my family, relatives, friends and my immediate political friends participate in deals within the department. Every year we are compelled by law to disclose details of family members working for the department or [who] won tenders in the department,” said Lesufi.

According to Lesufi, he became aware of spending on the sanitisation programmes when he received a text from a Daily Maverick reporter.

Lesufi said he will step down immediately if found to have failed to execute his oversight duties or found to have benefited from the tender.

Here are other questions that Lesufi provided answers to.

Q2: Which officials were directly responsible for approving this budget?

A: “The Accounting Officer approves all operational budgets.”

Q3: Was due process followed in the awarding of the tenders or were there any deviations and motivations in the allocations of this tender?

A: “I have since written to the SIU (Special Investigating Unit) and the AG (auditor-general) to investigate exactly that part of whether due process was followed.”

Q4: Which companies were paid to provide these services?

A: “The list was published but I can e-mail it to you.”

Q5: Which individuals directly benefited from winning the tender?

A: “I don’t know any single individual, either through family, friendship or politically, who benefited out of this transaction.”

Q6: What connections do those companies and individuals have to government officials in the Gauteng department of education?

A: “I have asked the integrity office in the premier’s office to investigate this aspect.”

Q7: What connections do these companies have to senior leaders in the ANC?

A: “I can assure you no single leader from the ANC, either at branch, regional, provincial or national approached me for any favour regarding this transaction.”

Q8: Why was the R431m not used to fix broken toilets and provide running water in schools that have this need?

A: “We spent almost more than R500m to fix all township schools toilets and the eradication of pit toilets in Gauteng.”

Q8.1: I know that there are schools in Gauteng with broken toilets and with broken desks. Why did you allocate budget to these superficial interventions while not fixing the existing problems that also affect Covid-19 contagion?

A: “Remember each school is given an annual budget to fix broken windows and desks. You also have a serious challenge of vandalism, especially electric cables, toilets seats and basins, as well as metal.”

Q9: What role did Mr Panyaza Lesufi play in the approval and oversight of this class sanitisation programme?

A: “During this period I was also acting MEC for social development, but I can assure you that I tried to the best of my capabilities to provide oversight support to both departments. I led the task to reopen schools and ensure that everything is done properly. In all those meetings I introduced to the team that it should be safety first before reopening schools. We needed to protect our staff and learners.”

Q10: Is the Gauteng education department prepared to fully disclose all its service providers and the nature of the agreements that have been entered into?

A: “Yes.”

Q12: Is the MEC prepared to step aside if found to have failed to execute his oversight duties or found to have benefited from this fruitless and wasteful expenditure of taxpayers' money?

A: “Yes, immediately.”

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