ALL contracts awarded by the Mpumalanga sports and culture department before September 2006, which run into millions of rands, were awarded irregularly.

This was said by department head Sindi Mjwara in a written reply to the integrity management unit.

It was in response to allegations that she irregularly appointed staff and service providers in her department.

Sowetan has so far established that a total of R90,4million in contracts had been awarded without the necessary scrutiny. The figure could be higher.

Mjwara said when she took over in 2006 there was no bid specification or bid evaluation committee.

The unit is probing allegations by the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) that Mjwara had, among things, awarded a company she has links with a R26million contract.

Mjwara allegedly irregularly appointed Smartly Fabulous Trading, a company from Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, and awarded it a R26million contract to supply sports equipment for rural outreach programmes.

She awarded the contract without referring it to specification or bid evaluation committees.

Mjwara said this was not her fault since the committees did not exist.

She said that as a result many other multi-million rand contracts had been awarded by her department without these committees.

She said for years her department had been procuring goods and services using the only available structure.

Investigators have recommended that Mjwara be charged for failure to ensure that procurement committees were in place.

But she told investigators that proceeding with charges against her would be tantamount to selective application of public policies by the state.

"I only inherited this challenge when I became HOD," she said.

Some of the contracts that were awarded without the scrutiny of the committees include a R11,2million tender to Lumekane Construction.

The company is owned by Premier David Mabuza's ex-fiancée, Ruth Silinda. The company was appointed in June 2006 by the then MEC Nomsa Mtshweni to upgrade the Samora Machel museum in Mbuzini.

In June 2004 the then MEC Madala Masuku spent a total of R41,2million to upgrade and renovate more than 218 sport facilities. In 2006 promoter Peter Tladi was appointed to conduct McFest for R12million.