A web of collusion and deceit in Limpopo dept

2016-11-27 12:21

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Polokwane - A series of investigations into Limpopo’s department of transport and safety has uncovered evidence of over-expenditure, 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 R191m is standing at a cost of more than R224m, 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 R132m tender;

Total Client Services (TCS), appointed for a R6 million tender, was paid R34m; and

An official stole equipment worth R12m from the Polokwane International Airport.

Buses to nowhere

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 R191m to R224m.

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 R20m 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 R12m and R20m.

Syntell saga

MPA investigators found that senior department managers Gordon Horn and Jane Mulaudzi colluded with Syntell to fraudulently award it a R132m tender.

MPA’s report reveals that early in 2014, Syntell submitted an unsolicited bid to supply and maintain the department’s electronic traffic surveillance and contravention management systems.

In June 2014, Horn and Mulaudzi travelled to the company’s headquarters in Pietermaritzburg for a presentation.

Later that year, the department requested proposals for the supply and maintenance of traffic surveillance and contravention management, for which Syntell bid.

MPA’s dossiers show the tender specifications were identical to those which Horn, who chaired the bid specification committee, received from Syntell.

The report found: “When it was time to initiate a tender... Horn used Syntell’s proposal that had been emailed to Mulaudzi, word for word.

It is obvious that Horn and Mulaudzi had tailored the specification to suit Syntell.”

Mokaba-Phukwana then cancelled the tender.

Horn refused to respond to detailed questions, saying only “it seems to me that some people are trying to tarnish our names.”

Horn, who was charged and suspended, has since returned to work.

Karen Davies, Syntell’s group legal adviser, said: “Our unsolicited bid was not accepted and the department went out to tender.

We therefore submitted a proposal, as we could offer the required services.

The department drafted the tender specifications; presumably they used the specifications set out in the unsolicited proposal because they wished to procure these services. The department knew we had submitted an unsolicited bid.”

The Pietermaritzburg visit was requested and paid for by the department, she said, adding that the department didn’t inform them why the tender was withdrawn.

Total windfall

In 2010, the department contracted Total Client Services, co-owned by company Mvelaphanda, to manage its traffic management system.

The three-year contract was supposed to cost R6m, but documents show that by the time the company left at the end of 2015, it had been paid well over R34m, with little work to show for it.

“The worst is that the department had been authorising payment to TCS without proof of services rendered. TCS’s invoices only indicated the total number of transactions done, without a breakdown of services,” MPA’s report found.

“It is inexplicable how the department spent more than R30m on a three-year contract of R6m, without proof of services being rendered.”

MPA investigators recommended that Du Plessis be 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.

Disappearing equipment

In preparation for the 2010 Fifa World Cup, officials at the Polokwane International Airport acquired R12m 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.

Public Protector investigates MPA

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.

The department responds

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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Read more on:    polokwane  |  public protector  |  transport

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