STATE CAPTURE INQUIRY: Treasury official reveals level of tender abuse

The state capture commission of inquiry called its first witness on Tuesday, seasoned Treasury official Willie Mathebula.
The state capture commission of inquiry called its first witness on Tuesday, seasoned Treasury official Willie Mathebula.
Image: Alon Skuy

National Treasury’s acting chief procurement officer Willie Mathebula says more than half of the awarded government contracts challenged in the courts are because bidders attempted to “abuse the system”. 

Mathebula was called as the first witness in deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo’s judicial commission of inquiry into state capture. With his position and experience in supply chain management‚ Mathebula’s testimony is expected to highlight the yardstick of best practice in government procurement.

Mathebula was questioned by Advocate Leah Gcabashe‚ a member of the commission’s legal team‚ and was asked why government’s procurement processes‚ like decisions taken by bid adjudication committees‚ were so frequently challenged in the courts.

“There are a number of reasons. Some of the reasons could be intentional abuse of the system‚ but some of the reasons could be the interpretation of the application of the rules of the game … If you look at what has been happening in the past years‚ one could ascribe more than 50% of these infractions as intentions to abuse the system‚” he said.

Mathebula has served at Treasury for 17 years. Explaining government procurement processes‚ he said the estimated procurement spend of government annually was R800 billion.

“The Office of the Chief Procurement Officer was established in 2013 ... to ensure that there was transparency in the system and deal with issues related to the abuse of procurement. The main mandate was to modernise the supply chain management system … [and] ensure that all spheres of government are regulated in terms of procurement‚” he said.

“Treasury does facilitate the arrangement of transversal term contracts. Day-to-day procurement of goods and services elsewhere are conducted through SCM units at individual organs of state. Distinct rules that govern individual procurement are formulated at an entity or department level.”

The first witness in the commission of inquiry into state capture, Willie Mathebula, took the stand on August 21 2018. Sunday Times journalist Qaanitah Hunter explains who he is and why his testimony is important.

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