Mbabane: The Deputy Prime Ministers (DPM) Office has reported a case of fraud to the police which involves one of its senior officials.
The name of the senior official is known to this publication but cannot be named for ethical reasons. It is alleged that a sum of up to E10 million was diverted by the official from the budget of the Department of Social Welfare to the Administration Department.
The money was supposedly diverted for the refurbishment of the DPM’s Office. However, procurement procedures were then flouted and signatures of officials forged as irregular tenders were issued.
According to sources, problems at the DPM’s Office started in 2019 when the official who was working as an Analyst at the Management Systems Division was appointed to a senior position.
Soon after she assumed the senior post where she was appointed, it is alleged that she orchestrated disciplinary cases against the Directors that she found there. These were the Director for Children and the Director of Social Welfare. The official is also reported to have facilitated a re-deployment of the Principal Accountant to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport after orchestrating a case against her. Thereafter, it is alleged that she re-deployed the Director of Gender to the Ministry of Tinkhundla Administration and Development.
In 2020, two Directors from the DPM’s Office were arrested; these were the Director of Social Welfare and the Director of the National Children’s Services Department apparently on ‘trumped-up’ charges. The former was charged with the sexual harassment of a staff member while the latter was charged with rape.
It is alleged that a female staff member was coerced into making the claims of sexual harassment against the Director of Social Welfare. Meanwhile, there is no complainant against the Director of the National Children’s Services Director. This is because the rape charges are attributed to his wife who is said to have been below age when she was married. The two Directors are out on bail and their cases have not been concluded mainly because they are not easy to prosecute.
Once the above-mentioned personnel had been removed, the official is then alleged to have diverted the budget of the Department of Social Welfare which is responsible for social welfare issues such as elderly grants, orphaned and vulnerable children, and the disabled. These were diverted to the Administration Department to be used for refurbishment at the DPM’s Office.
Thereafter, a lot of procurement procedures are reported to have been flouted this included the absence of a proper procurement committee. The prices of goods and services procured were inflated. Pavers costing E3.50 were inflated to E319.00 each and the cutting of a single tree cost E35 000.00 are among other irregularities. Other goods and services that were procured and paid for were never delivered such as the installment of a security system in the DPM’s Office within the inter-ministerial office building.
Apparently, the Principal Secretary (PS) in the DPM’s Office Makhosini Mndawe came across the files of the questionable transactions by chance. He summoned the officers whose signatures were appended in the documents. The officers implicated refuted knowledge of the contents or any undertaking contained in the documents and explicitly pointed out that the ‘official’ was fully in charge of the procurement process.
Sources close to the matter revealed that Mndawe then consulted the Legal Advisor in the DPM’s Office on the matter who advised that the Office must be seen to be discharging justice fairly and equally to all its officials. This is in light of the fact that two of its offices were currently out of work because they had pending criminal charges. He was advised that this was a criminal matter that warranted immediate arrest and should be reported to the police and the Auditor General.
Accordingly, the PS wrote the letter to initiate formal charges and to report the matter to the police and the Auditor General. All the officers whose signatures were forged also reported the matter to the police and the Auditor General and admitted statements of account. Following this, a forensic investigation was initiated by the Auditor General. However, there is a concern at the pace at which it is moving especially because the implicated official continues to report to duty as usual, therefore at the risk of interfering with the investigation.
The police spokesperson Phindile Vilakati confirmed that the matter has been reported from the office of the DPM and it is still under investigation. However, the implicated official when contacted said “I am not aware of anything related to the matter. Nothing has been communicated to me from the police.”
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