NOMVULA’S ‘BEN 10’ CALLS THE SHOTS

Luvo Makasi has been fin­gered as the young man about ten­der-town, ne­go­ti­at­ing deals on the min­is­ter’s be­half and or­der­ing se­nior de­part­men­tal of­fi­cials around

CityPress - - Front Page - SIPHO MASONDO and NTOMBIZODWA MAKHOBA sipho.masondo@city­press.co.za ntombizodwa@city­press.co.za

Min­is­ter of Wa­ter Af­fairs and San­i­ta­tion Nomvula Mokonyane is al­low­ing her young male com­pan­ion to call the shots in her depart­ment – so much so that he has gone so far as giv­ing orders to her di­rec­tor-gen­eral. Se­nior depart­ment of­fi­cials and con­trac­tors con­firmed how Luvo Makasi, who turns 33 next week, has been at­tend­ing se­nior man­age­ment meet­ings, “ar­ro­gantly” dish­ing out in­struc­tions and “or­der­ing us around”.

They say Mokonyane has ex­ten­sively out­sourced the run­ning of her crum­bling depart­ment to Makasi, a di­rec­tor of a Cape Town law firm and the re­cently ap­pointed chair­per­son of the Cen­tral En­ergy Fund.

Seven highly placed sources – in­clud­ing se­nior of­fi­cials, con­trac­tors and oth­ers close to Mokonyane – as well as a le­gal opin­ion and a let­ter City Press ob­tained, have re­vealed that:

Two weeks ago, at African Pride Irene Coun­try Lodge in Pre­to­ria, Makasi al­legedly gave in­struc­tions to se­nior of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing di­rec­tor­gen­eral Dan “Gor­bachev” Mashitisho and chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer Si­fiso Mkhize;

Makasi and Thele Moema, Mokonyane’s spe­cial ad­viser, met with of­fi­cials at Lim­popo wa­ter board Le­pelle North­ern Wa­ter, al­legedly to dis­cuss which com­pa­nies should get ten­ders in wa­ter projects around that prov­ince;

In the mid­dle of last year, Makasi vis­ited Polok­wane’s mayor, Thembi Nkadi­meng, and al­legedly is­sued in­struc­tions on who should get a stake in a R2.2 bil­lion wa­ter project the mu­nic­i­pal­ity is car­ry­ing out around the city;

Bo­qwana Burns, the law firm of which Makasi is a di­rec­tor, was hired to give Le­pelle North­ern Wa­ter a le­gal opin­ion on the con­tro­ver­sial R5 bil­lion Giyani Emer­gency Wa­ter Project;

Depart­ment of­fi­cials close to Mokonyane ap­par­ently or­dered con­trac­tors to meet with Makasi “if they don’t want is­sues with their con­tracts”; and

In his ca­pac­ity as chair­per­son of the Cen­tral En­ergy Fund, Makasi has al­ready writ­ten to Mokonyane ask­ing if they can work to­gether on hy­dro­elec­tric­ity projects “and other re­new­able en­ergy pro­grammes which may even as­sist with wa­ter con­ser­va­tion”.

One of­fi­cial said “Luvo” and “Mama” were very close, adding: “They travel to­gether; they are al­ways to­gether. They trav­elled to­gether to Iran and New York.”

HOW MAKASI CALLS THE SHOTS

Two weeks ago, Mokonyane and Makasi met Mashitisho, Mkhize, le­gal ad­viser Ad­vo­cate Moss Mphaga (SC) and spe­cial ad­viser Moema at African Pride Irene Coun­try Lodge.

An as­so­ci­ate of Mokonyane said: “It was shock­ing. I have never heard of any­thing like this be­fore. Luvo was is­su­ing in­struc­tions to Gor­bachev and Mkhize. He treated the most se­nior of­fi­cials in the depart­ment as his ju­niors.”

A con­trac­tor told City Press this week that he was called by Zandile Mathe, the depart­ment’s in­fra­struc­ture deputy di­rec­tor-gen­eral, and Moema, ask­ing him to meet Makasi “for a dis­cus­sion”.

“They came to me, Zandile and Thele. They said: ‘Please meet up with the guy so that your things can go well.’ I told them to f**k off. That is when our prob­lems with the depart­ment be­gan. As it is, we are owed more than tens of mil­lions of rands,” he said.

An ex­ec­u­tive in the depart­ment privy to the de­tails said: “Zandile lit­er­ally begged him to meet Makasi, but he flatly re­fused.

“For­tu­nately, he is an es­tab­lished con­trac­tor. That is why he is still stand­ing to­day. Small guys do not refuse; they know that a re­fusal means the end of their com­pa­nies.”

The same of­fi­cial said last year that Makasi vis­ited Polok­wane mayor Nkadi­meng to dic­tate in­struc­tions on who should get which ten­der on the R2.2 bil­lion wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture project in Polok­wane. “But Nkadi­meng would have none of it,” the of­fi­cial said. A Lim­popo busi­ness­man close to Nkadi­meng said: “It is true. [Makasi] went there to dic­tate terms to the mayor. But the mayor said: ‘No, I don’t work like that,’ and she dis­missed him. Now the R2.2 bil­lion project has stalled.”

Of Makasi, an­other se­nior depart­ment ex­ec­u­tive said: “He runs the depart­ment, gives orders and is­sues in­struc­tions to all. You refuse to take orders at your own peril. “I re­ally think Nomvula should be moved to an­other depart­ment for her own sake. She should be moved to a depart­ment with­out money where she will sit and get her san­ity back. She has lost it.” An­other se­nior depart­ment of­fi­cial said Makasi and Moema of­ten vis­ited Phineas Le­godi, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer (CEO) of Le­pelle North­ern Wa­ter, to “dis­cuss” ten­ders.

“Le­godi is not com­fort­able with meet­ing both Thele and Makasi. Re­mem­ber, Thele is a spe­cial ad­viser to the min­is­ter. He is not em­ployed by the depart­ment.

“But Le­godi is scep­ti­cal about rais­ing the is­sue be­cause he fears that he might be ac­cused of in­sub­or­di­na­tion,” the of­fi­cial said, adding that Le­godi was “still try­ing to fig­ure out Makasi’s sta­tus in the depart­ment”.

Le­godi de­clined to com­ment about the vis­its, but said he did not di­rectly ap­point Bo­qwana Burns to do work for his wa­ter board.

“I pro­cured the ser­vices of Pham­bane Mokone At­tor­neys for their at­ten­tion to a bat­tery of le­gal is­sues re­lated to the Giyani project,” he said, adding that the wa­ter board sub­con­tracted some of the work to Bo­qwana Burns.

Depart­ment spokesper­son Sput­nik Ratau said: “The min­is­ter knows Mr Luvo Makasi and has a po­lit­i­cal and pro­fes­sional re­la­tion­ship with him. Mr Makasi is not an em­ployee of the depart­ment and, as such, has no role nor au­thor­ity in de­part­men­tal mat­ters or those of en­ti­ties un­der the depart­ment,” he said.

“The min­is­ter is the ex­ec­u­tive au­thor­ity of the depart­ment and con­tin­ues to per­son­ally ex­er­cise all her re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, in line with the Con­sti­tu­tion.”

AN UN­NEC­ES­SARY SINK­HOLE

A let­ter from a whis­tle-blower, dis­trib­uted last week by Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers leader Julius Malema on Twit­ter, con­tained the al­le­ga­tion that Makasi re­ceived kick­backs of more than R35 mil­lion af­ter fa­cil­i­tat­ing the pur­chase of a R950 mil­lion SAP in­for­ma­tion technology (IT) sys­tem, which the depart­ment does not need.

In the widely cir­cu­lated let­ter – also sent to the Hawks and the Spe­cial In­ves­ti­gat­ing Unit – the un­named whistle­blower also ac­cuses Makasi, “who does not even work for the depart­ment, of fa­cil­i­tat­ing this cor­rupt deal”.

The let­ter con­firms de­tails of al­leged cor­rup­tion in the R5 bil­lion Giyani Emer­gency Wa­ter Project, which City Press has re­vealed in the past year. Its con­tents have also been con­firmed to City Press by se­nior sources.

How­ever, Ratau said the depart­ment was not aware of the let­ter.

Other let­ters, doc­u­ments and emails cir­cu­lated be­tween se­nior of­fi­cials – which City Press has ob­tained – re­veal that the depart­ment’s le­gal ad­viser, Puse­letso Loselo, its chief in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer, Mma­mathe Makhekhe Mokhuane; and the State In­for­ma­tion Technology Agency (Sita) all ad­vised against the SAP IT con­tract.

Min­utes of a meet­ing on July 21 last year also re­veal that due dili­gence was not per­formed on the con­tract.

In ad­di­tion, the doc­u­ments re­veal that the sys­tem was bought for eight of the coun­try’s wa­ter boards with­out first check­ing with them whether they ac­tu­ally needed it.

Loselo’s le­gal ad­vice found that the to­tal cost of the SAP sys­tem was R950 mil­lion, as op­posed to the amount of R450 mil­lion he had been led to be­lieve.

She ad­vised that this mat­ter should be “looked at more pru­dently” and proper due dili­gence be done be­fore ne­go­ti­a­tions went fur­ther.

She also warned about the “very high pos­si­bil­ity of a du­pli­ca­tion of costs”.

On July 19, Sita – which is re­spon­si­ble for all state IT pro­cure­ment – warned the depart­ment not to sign the con­tract. Sita CEO Setumo Mo­hapi wrote that such a con­tract “may con­sti­tute ir­reg­u­lar ex­pen­di­ture” and could clash with his in­sti­tu­tion’s “ex­clu­sive man­date”.

In a strongly worded email on July 22, MakhekheMokhuane warned Pa­tience Magubane, who was then Mathe’s of­fice man­ager, to stay away from the con­tract.

“I strongly sug­gest that you get writ­ten con­sent from both Sita and the Na­tional Trea­sury be­fore you act on a man­date of an­other in­sti­tu­tion know­ingly,” she wrote.

Three se­nior of­fi­cials told City Press that, afraid of sign­ing the con­tract, Mkhize left on a trip to China. A deputy di­rec­tor-gen­eral, whom he ap­pointed to act, had to sign it in­stead.

One of­fi­cial said: “There are too many things wrong with the con­tracts. We bought this for the wa­ter boards as well, but the wa­ter boards do not need it. They have their own IT sys­tems. It is such a mess.”

WHAT THE DEPART­MENT SAYS

Makasi did not re­spond to a list of ques­tions sent to him early on Fri­day, say­ing he had in­suf­fi­cient time to re­spond. His law firm asked for an ex­ten­sion un­til Tues­day, which City Press de­clined.

“Our rights, both those of Mr Makasi and Bo­qwana Burns Inc, are strictly and fully re­served,” the law firm said in a let­ter.

Ratau said: “The orig­i­nal process of the ac­qui­si­tion of SAP was ap­proved by the ex­ec­u­tive au­thor­ity and was duly fi­nalised by the ac­count­ing of­fi­cer, as del­e­gated by the Pub­lic Fi­nance Man­age­ment Act. This ap­proval was pre­ceded by the In­for­ma­tion and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Technology Com­mit­tee con­sid­er­a­tions and Bid Ad­ju­di­ca­tion Com­mit­tee rec­om­men­da­tions.

“The emailed let­ter from the Sita group CEO was re­ceived af­ter the ap­proval for the process was granted.

“Fur­ther to that, the let­ter does not re­flect that all IT in­fra­struc­ture must be pro­cured through Sita, but in­di­cates that Sita need to de­ter­mine if the SAP pro­cure­ment falls within the Sita man­date.”

Ratau de­nied that no due dili­gence was done on the con­tract, say­ing the depart­ment needed the SAP sys­tem to “ex­e­cute its newly de­fined strate­gies up to and in­clud­ing 2021”.

Ratau in­sisted the project cost R450 mil­lion and not R950 mil­lion. For a full list of ques­tions and answers with the

depart­ment, go to city-press.news24.com.

CED­ING RE­SPON­SI­BIL­ITY Nomvula Mokonyane

AS­SUM­ING AU­THOR­ITY Luvo Makasi

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