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Article by listed accountant Nkosinathi Mhlope

There are probably a lot of people whose main business comes from tendering and supplying the government with goods and services. The National treasury effective 01 March 2016 came out with a new way of registering as a supplier so that there is a central repository where all National departments, Provincial government, local government and parastatals can look out for potential suppliers. They search from that repository from would be possible suppliers and send request for quotation (RFQ) and normally the requesting department would send supply chain forms to be completed called the SBD forms. Some besides an RFQ would request that the bidder if it is a tender draw up a proposal. This centralising of supplier registration at the National Treasury has made it easier for potential suppliers of goods and services to do everything at once online at without having to do the monotonous task of completing registration forms for hundreds of departments nationwide. The advantage is the National treasury system links to home affairs, CIPC and the South African Revenue Services to verify and authenticate all documentation IDs,CK documents and one’s tax clearance. It is also able to verify banking details for the potential supplier with all the South African Banks.

While this is a great move by the National Treasury, like any beautiful thing there are always those opportunists that will try to do scams and fraudulent activities. While I am a professional registered Accountant and registered Tax Practitioner, I decided to also try consulting with the government and so like every potential supplier I registered at and I have been having a number of authentic RFQs and proposal requests coming from various government departments. However, the towards the end of September 2016 I had a request that came through for me to quote the department of public works for 20 units of specified models of an air conditioner and a day later another came through from department of minerals to quote them on a certain model of a pump. Now highlight the fact that my company listed the services of consulting on the CSD website and naturally any department would only request me to provide services along consulting lines. I have always and eye for detail and I do not usually fall into scam especially the Nigerian 419 scams and Pyramid schemes. I guess it’s the nature of us Accountants. If the numbers do not add up, then it is too good to be true. Trust me I almost fell for these ones. I did a quote and faxed it back to the would be supply chain official who sounded to me like a coloured lady. The name of the lady was English but the surname was tswana, but then with inter- racial marriages it is possible even for a white lady to have a black surname so that was not the issue for me. To cut a long story short, I faxed the quote and after the weekend I got a letter of appointment on government letterhead and an order on a government letterhead. Silly me, having consulted with the government I should have been wise a prudent to know that government orders are generated by a government system called BAS (Basic Accounting System). I was so excited and because I did not have enough cash flow I started asking around from friends and would be potential funders.  I then called a client of mine who is involved in refrigeration and air conditioning. His advice to me was to verify the order with the public works and that the public works normally requests for air conditioners together with installation but this would be “public works” only requested for air conditioners. I acted on the advice and called a supply chain manager. I asked if they have such an official in the department and the answer was yes they do. I then asked them to verify the order number and BOOM, there was no such an order number and that this was a SCAM and apparently there is a syndicate going around at the moment.

Lessons learnt

  1. It is only security clusters like the Defence, Security Services that would request one to fax through a quote/proposal. Most departments use email services. Whether the URL used looks authentic there is a need to scrutinise everything that comes to you. In my case the URL was authentic and they had an official with the same name and surname. It turns out probably they hacked the government servers to use the email.

  2. Departments will not only send an RFQ only. They also send SBD forms to complete. However even if the sender sends SBD forms, there is still a need to call the supply chain manager or another high ranking official (not the sender) to verify the RFQ or order number

  3. The reason why the central supplier database requests one to list the services/products provided is so that the requesting department may request exactly that which the potential supplier/tenderer has listed on the database. If you provide HR services and the requester asks for hydraulic pumps or computers, that should raise eye brows.

  4. If need be and one can drive to a department by all means drive and see an official face to face to authenticate the documentation.

  5. If anything is too good to be true, then it is too good to be true

Hope this article will help someone else

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