A web of col­lu­sion and de­ceit

In­ves­ti­ga­tions show a litany of pro­cure­ment trans­gres­sions and cover-up at­tempts in the Lim­popo trans­port de­part­ment

CityPress - - News - SIPHO MASONDO sipho.masondo@city­press.co.za

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.”

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