Friday, 04 February 2022

Pretoria: A Special Tribunal order compelling two Free State departments to invoke the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) in order to recoup financial losses, suffered from officials implicated in the awarding of unlawful PPE contracts, is a deterrent for would-be errant public servants.

This is according to the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).

The order invalidated personal protective equipment (PPE) procurement contracts of at least 36 companies contracted to the Free State Health and Treasury departments.

In her judgement, Judge Lebogang Modiba explicitly ordered the accounting officers of the two departments to “invoke section 38(1)(h) of the PFMA against the implicated…officials to recover any fruitless and wasteful expenditure incurred or to the incurred” from the contracts.

Speaking on Thursday, SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said the order goes a long way to putting the PFMA’s anti-corruption and mismanagement mitigation measures into action.

“We always talk as government about fruitless and wasteful expenditure that is incurred and we just put it aside as that. When PFMA has always had a section…which talks about the fact that we must recover against implicated officials. It says a lot [about] people doing their work diligently because when you do your work diligently, you will not find yourself in this situation.

“But the [PFMA] says if you are reckless and that recklessness makes the government incur fruitless and wasteful expenditure [which] then must be recovered. People will start taking this matter seriously and now that it has been put as part of the judgement, it puts the onus back on the officials,” he said.

The judgement was made on Monday.

Kganyago said the order in this specific case must be implemented by the accounting officers in the two departments or risk being in contempt of the Special Tribunal.

“When they implement it, they will have to enter into agreements with the officials to say that your [actions] have caused us to lose this and this is how we are going to recover it from you. If you are still an employee then they are going to take it bit by bit [from salaries] but if you are going to resign then they will take it from your pensions,” he said.

He emphasised that although Modiba’s judgement highlighted the PFMA in particular, the section relating to the recovery of financial losses as a result of fruitless and wasteful expenditure has “always been there” and can be invoked by “any official in any matter in any government institution”.

“This particular order relates to these two departments but it also sends a message that before it comes to you, put your house in order so that you don’t find yourself in this position. This order must be read in context of the two departments but it is a reference to a section of an Act that must be invoked,” he said.

Kganyago warned government officials that the SIU is intent on creating a “corruption free country and corruption free government” and will investigate those allegedly involved in corruption without fear or favour.

“We might not currently know what you have done but somewhere, somehow we will know and there will be consequence management after that.” Kganyago said.