Wheels fall off R1 billion bus tender

2015-04-12 15:00

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Feathers fly as suspended acting CEO blows the whistle on acting board chairperson

A whistle-blower has made sensational allegations against the chairperson of a bus company owned by the North West provincial government, accusing him of trying to influence a R1?billion bus tender.

Kgabo Mapotse, the suspended acting CEO of the state-owned North West Transport Investments (NTI) – which runs the Starline and Atteridgeville bus services – alleges the company’s acting board chairperson, Themba Gwabeni, also tried to solicit a R200?000 bribe from a potential diesel supplier.

Mapotse detailed his claims in a letter – a copy of which City Press has obtained – which he wrote to Transport MEC Gaoage Molapisi on April 1.

A copy of the letter was sent to Premier Supra Mahumapelo.

Mapotse further alleges Gwabeni promised him a share of a R2?million kickback if he agreed to allow NTI to enter into a joint venture with another transport company in a bid for a contract to transport miners at one of the province’s large platinum mining houses.

Mapotse has confirmed he wrote the letter.

Gwabeni, meanwhile, denies all Mapotse’s claims. He insists Mapotse is waging a smear campaign against him because the suspended acting CEO is facing serious charges of financial maladministration and insubordination for awarding a diesel contract without the board’s approval.

“There are charges against him, and if he thinks I am going to withdraw them because of allegations he’s cooking up against me, he’s wrong,” Gwabeni said.

However, Molapisi’s spokesperson, Shuping Sebolecwe, confirmed the MEC had received the letter and been asked by the premier to investigate the allegations. Mahumapelo’s spokesperson, Bonolo Mohlakoana, also confirmed this.

In his letter, Mapotse further accuses Gwabeni of irregularly helping the MEC’s son out with a sponsorship.

“The chair issued an instruction to management to facilitate the sponsorship of Molapisi’s son for a car drifting show in Durban, for the total amount of R70?000, without following any internal processes,” he wrote.

Formerly the mayor of Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality, Gwabeni was fired in 2009 after it emerged he had illegally taken money from the municipality’s water budget to send 18 boys to a football academy in Brazil.

He was appointed the NTI board’s acting executive chairperson in August last year. His relationship with Mapotse soured quickly, and Mapotse was suspended last month.

Mapotse alleges in the letter the main reason he was suspended was because he defied orders by Gwabeni to “illegally manipulate tenders in favour of his preferred suppliers”.

He alleges he was suspended after he awarded a diesel tender to another company, instead of the one he claims Gwabeni had personally sought a R200?000 bribe from.

“He went to [the company] and promised to get them the tender and [said] they must give him R200?000 [for] a deposit on a BMW 7 series,” he wrote. Representatives of the company could not be traced for comment this week.

Gwabeni, however, says Mapotse awarded the tender to a company without the board’s approval, which is why he was suspended.

Another allegation in Mapotse’s letter is about the renewal of the bus company’s fleet.

In February, the NTI advertised a tender seeking 540 new buses, at a cost of about R1?billion.

Mapotse wrote he was uncomfortable with a visit Gwabeni paid to a Cape Town-based bus manufacturer, Busmark, soon after the tender was advertised, because it was likely the company would bid for it.

However, Busmark spokesperson Danie Human said Gwabeni’s visit had nothing to do with the fleet-renewal tender and his company did not intend to bid.

Gwabeni told City Press there was nothing untoward about his visit to the company, and added he could not influence tenders because he did not sit on the tender-adjudication committees.

About the other allegations, Gwabeni said there was no way he would demand a bribe to place a deposit on a BMW 7 series because he was driving a BMW X5.

He further denied promising Mapotse a slice of a R2?million kickback, saying he had merely proposed a business deal for consideration by the company’s senior managers.

About allegations that the transport MEC’s son had received a sponsorship from the bus company, Sebolecwe said the MEC had “never sat in any meeting where tenders were discussed and neither did he sit in any meeting which discussed any sponsorship”.

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