Com­pany ac­cuses SIU of con­duct­ing fraud­u­lent probe

CityPress - - News - SIZWE SAMA YENDE sizwe.yende@city­press.co.za

A busi­ness­man has ac­cused the Spe­cial In­ves­ti­gat­ing Unit (SIU) of be­ing in ca­hoots with the Lim­popo mu­nic­i­pal­ity that he has fought to re­cover R41 mil­lion of pay­ments out­stand­ing to him and his com­pany for hav­ing pro­vided elec­tric­ity to 24 vil­lages.

Mpha­phuli Con­sult­ing has been fight­ing the Fe­tak­gomo Greater Tu­batse Lo­cal Mu­nic­i­pal­ity for non-pay­ment and be­cause the mu­nic­i­pal­ity has launched var­i­ous at­tempts to ter­mi­nate its le­gal con­tract with the com­pany over the past few years.

Lu­funo Mpha­phuli, CEO of Mpha­phuli Con­sult­ing, has lodged a com­plaint with the Port­fo­lio Com­mit­tee on Jus­tice and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices chair­per­son Mathole Mot­shekga about the SIU’s al­leged in­ves­tiga­tive bias con­cern­ing his dis­pute with the mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

The com­pany ac­cuses the SIU – which is sup­posed to in­ves­ti­gate the mu­nic­i­pal­ity for mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion – of hav­ing given ad­vice to the mu­nic­i­pal­ity on how to get rid of con­trac­tual obli­ga­tions to the com­pany. It said the unit was act­ing out­side the scope of pres­i­den­tial procla­ma­tion R52 of 2014, which clearly set out the pa­ram­e­ters for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The com­pany was ap­pointed in 2013 to im­ple­ment a R326-mil­lion pi­lot elec­tri­fi­ca­tion project, Op­er­a­tion Mabone – to pro­vide elec­tric­ity to 13 500 house­holds in 24 vil­lages in the same year. The scope of Mpha­phuli’s con­tract was later in­creased to in­clude three more vil­lages – Mashamuthane, Prak­tiseer and Bothashoek – at a cost of R95 mil­lion.

Mpha­phuli suc­cess­fully sued the mu­nic­i­pal­ity in the Polok­wane High Court and had its ve­hi­cles and an in­vest­ment ac­count at­tached when the mu­nic­i­pal­ity re­fused to pay R41 mil­lion for work done in De­cem­ber last year.

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity even­tu­ally paid the money and got back its prop­erty, then lodged an ap­peal in the Bloemfontein Supreme Court of Ap­peal, which failed.

Af­ter this, Jo­hannes Mohlala, for­mer Greater Tu­batse mu­nic­i­pal man­ager, wrote to Mpha­phuli in Jan­uary no­ti­fy­ing his com­pany that its con­tract was be­ing ter­mi­nated due to lack of funds and al­leged poor per­for­mance. But he re­fused to pro­vide the com­pany with a coun­cil res­o­lu­tion au­tho­ris­ing the ter­mi­na­tion.

City Press un­der­stood that Mpha­phuli Con­sult­ing’s pay­ments were be­ing with­held be­cause se­nior politi­cians in the Greater Sekhukhune re­gion wanted an­other com­pany to re­place it so that they could al­legedly have an in­flu­ence on sub­con­trac­tors to be ap­pointed for their own ben­e­fit.

The procla­ma­tion, Mpha­phuli ar­gued, did not in­clude his com­pany (as sub­ject of in­ves­ti­ga­tion) when it was is­sued and was only about an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s affairs.

In a let­ter to Mot­shekga, Mpha­phuli’s lawyers from Couzyn Hert­zog and Ho­rak said “at present, our client has gained the im­pres­sion” that the SIU has “teamed up with the ac­cused [the mu­nic­i­pal­ity] against the wit­ness [Mpha­phuli Con­sult­ing]”.

“Our client is tempted to con­clude that [the mu­nic­i­pal­ity] is abus­ing the SIU in or­der to pun­ish Mpha­phuli Con­sult­ing” for hav­ing ob­tained the Polok­wane High Court judg­ment. “The un­for­tu­nate re­sult of the way in which the SIU is con­duct­ing its in­ves­ti­ga­tion (which has all the char­ac­ter­is­tics of a witch-hunt) is that it de­ters other ser­vice providers who are legally ag­grieved from tak­ing gov­ern­ment and paras­tatal in­sti­tu­tions to court for res­o­lu­tion of dis­putes,” the let­ter read.

They cited coun­cil min­utes dated July 24 2017, which in­di­cate that the SIU had been ad­vis­ing the mu­nic­i­pal­ity on how to deal with its prob­lems. “Fur­ther ad­vice from both le­gal coun­sel and the SIU is that in or­der to avoid fur­ther de­lays and ex­ac­er­ba­tion of un­rests re­lat­ing to ser­vice de­liv­ery with re­gard to the elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of the out­stand­ing vil­lages, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity should en­gage both the DOE [depart­ment of en­ergy] and Eskom in or­der to seek fund­ing and as­sis­tance to elec­trify houses ...”.

SIU spokesper­son Nazreen Pan­dor con­firmed that Fe­tak­gomo Greater Tu­batse’s mayor, Maudu Phokane, and mu­nic­i­pal man­ager Non­tuthuko Bu­sane had re­quested the unit to turn its at­ten­tion to Mpha­phuli Con­sult­ing. “The SIU ve­he­mently de­nies the al­le­ga­tion that the SIU’s of­fi­cials are work­ing in ca­hoots with the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s politi­cians” to ter­mi­nate the con­tract, Pan­dor said. With re­gards to the ad­vice given by the SIU to the mu­nic­i­pal­ity, the SIU sees noth­ing wrong with that. Thabiso Mokoena, spokesper­son for the mu­nic­i­pal­ity, de­clined to com­ment say­ing City Press should rather con­tact the SIU “as they are the ones con­duct­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions as pro­claimed by the pres­i­dency”. Greater Tu­batse was merged with Fe­tak­gomo af­ter the lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions. Be­fore the merger, Good Gov­er­nance Africa rated Greater Tu­batse among the 10 worst-run mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in South Africa.

Mathole Mot­shekga

Lu­funo Mpha­phuli

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