Thousands of indigent people in the province are at risk of going hungry after the KZN Department of Social Development cut ties with a key supplier due to allegations of fraud.
The South African Food and Development Agency (Safsda), which supplies hundreds of KZN soup kitchens on behalf of the department, has now approached the courts to stop the cancellation of its multi-million contract.
The department ditched Safsda on the basis of a forensic investigation which, among other things, accused the NPO of making people running the soup kitchens pay for the food it supplied.
This is despite the fact that the department would have already paid Safsda, which also supplies food to victims of natural disasters such as floods, for the food.
Founded in 1999, the agency is the main vehicle used by the department to provide food to impoverished communities in the province.
According to documents tabled in the KZN provincial legislature, the department, through Safsda, is currently feeding more than 30 000 indigent people across the province
However, investigators who probed the NPO have accused it of several transgressions, including fraud.
“Safsda fraudulently received payments from 45 Community Nutrition Development Centres (CNDCs) valued at a combined sum of R3 927 429,78,” investigators said in their forensic report.
Further, Safsda had been accused of subcontracting services without prior authorisation.
The main recommendation made by the investigators was that the department should immediately cancel its contract with Safsda.
While the department offered Safsda an opportunity to make written submissions before the decision to cancel the contract could be implemented, the NPO opted for the legal route.
Safsda secretary Jamie Lee Kruis said: “Unfortunately, we are not able to answer media questions around the matter as the issue is currently being handled by our lawyers.”
Social Development provincial spokesperson Mhlaba Memela also declined to comment on the matter.
The department has already suspended two officials who had been overseeing the Safsda contract.
Director of Poverty Alleviation and Sustainable Livelihood, Zamo Mchunu, and the unit’s assistant director, Nontando Ngcobo, were both placed on suspension last month.
In December KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala was forced to shift the department’s head, Nokuthula Khanyile, to the Premier’s Department after her subordinates, who organised protests against Khanyile, had accused her of bullying and corruption.
However, those sympathetic to Khanyile have claimed that the campaign against her was part of a ploy to prevent her from instituting disciplinary measures against department managers implicated in corruption and maladministration.
A social worker by training, Khanyile had been credited for fighting corruption and poor performance within the department.
Under Khanyile, the department, alongside the Provincial Treasury, was the only one in the entire province to receive a clean audit from the auditor-general in the 2018/19 financial year
Zikalala has since launched a separate investigation that will look into circumstances that led to Khanyile being forced out of her top job at the provincial Social Development Department.
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