A web of collusion and deceit
Investigations show a litany of procurement transgressions and cover-up attempts in the Limpopo transport department
Aseries of investigations into Limpopo’s department of transport and safety has uncovered evidence of overexpenditure, tender collusion and maladministration. A number of reports, compiled by a company called MPA Investigation Team, have shed light on allegations of corruption that led to the department being placed under the administration of national Treasury in December 2011.
The most recent instance of these is the construction of a taxi and bus rank in Thohoyandou, commissioned for R191 million is standing at a cost of more than R224 million, with more millions needed to finish it.
In 2014, then MEC Mapula Mokaba-Phukwana appointed MPA to investigate corruption allegations. Their reports found that:
Officials colluded with transport management company Syntell, which supplies equipment such as speed cameras, to fraudulently award it a R132 million tender;
Total Client Services (TCS), appointed for a R6 million tender, was paid R34 million; and
An official stole equipment worth R12 million from the Polokwane International Airport.
In 2011, the department contracted construction company WBHO to build an “intermodal transport facility” in Thohoyandou. Documents show that construction costs ballooned from the tender amount of R191 million to R224 million. They also reveal questions about the facility’s structural integrity.
In a letter City Press has seen, department head Hanlie du Plessis asks the provincial treasury for a further R20 million for “remedial work” after the department hired Aurecon to conduct a structural assessment of the facility last year.
WBHO spokesperson Amanda Punt said: “WBHO formed part of a joint venture as the main contractor to construct the Thohonyandou Intermodal Transport Facility. The contract was completed to specification and as per the agreed programme with the client, a final completion certificate was issued in March 2015. We have had no further involvement and have no knowledge of the current status.”
Limpopo transport spokesperson Joshua Kwapa said the facility was supposed to have been completed by November 2012.
“It is a reinforced concrete frame structure divided into two portions – the taxi holding area and the three-storey retail area. In March 2012, sections of the first-floor slabs started showing cracks,” he said.
“The assessment on the major structure ... concluded that the building is sound from a structural point of view. However, certain structural elements were inadequate, which could lead to structural failure. The assessment therefore recommended remedial solutions. The estimated cost for the remedial work was between R12 million and R20 million.” charged for “wilfully and intentionally authorising the release of payments to TCS when in actual fact there were no monthly and/or regular statistical reports of work done”.
TCS did not respond to requests for comment over a period of three weeks.
In preparation for the 2010 Fifa World Cup, officials at the Polokwane International Airport acquired R12 million worth of equipment.
But MPA’s reports show that after the World Cup, former senior operations manager Wilfred Mogudi colluded with the company from which the equipment was bought, removed it from the airport and leased it to an airports handling company operating from Waterkloof Military Air Base. Polokwane International Airport has since fired Mogudi and charged him with theft. The equipment has been returned. Mogudi could not be reached for comment.
A provisional Public Protector report has found that Mokaba-Phokwana did not follow proper procurement procedures when contracting MPA to conduct its investigations. The report found that MPA was registered as a debt collection company, and that its boss Martins Antonio had attended a five-day crash course in forensic investigations two days before getting the contract.
The Public Protector also found that Antonio’s wife, Mpho, a former police clerk, was the sole director of the company when MPA was appointed, and that Mokaba-Phokwana’s actions amounted to maladministration.
Mokaba-Phokwana, who later asked provincial treasury to regularise MPA’s appointment, said she deviated from procedure because she didn’t want her staff to know they were being investigated. “Had we not deviated, we wouldn’t have found the corruption which MPA has found. That department was and is still rotten with corruption,” she said.
Antonio, who says he has been a private investigator since 2002, maintained that his company was not a fly-by-night operation and showed City Press work it allegedly had done in Angola, Mozambique, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In response to detailed questions, Kwapa sent a short statement, saying: “It is a grave concern to note that this kind of information is leaked to the media. As far as the department is concerned, people who had access to this information were the investigating company MPA and the reports have not been formally handed to the department.
“The information as put forward cannot be confirmed or denied as no official had access to this investigation. However, disciplinary hearings emanating from the investigation are currently underway. Therefore, we are unable to provide any detailed responses as this may jeopardise the process.
“It further needs to be noted that the whole issue surrounding the investigation conducted by MPA is under investigation by National Treasury.”