Of trusts, tenders and potholes

2012-09-29 10:13

If the charges Julius Malema and his fellow accused face hold water, the people of Limpopo should be outraged.

It would mean that the provincial government they elected to create a better life for all in effect outsourced their basic duties to a newly formed company with no staff or expertise.

It would mean that their roads – the basic requirement for a functioning economy – are at the mercy of a company without the necessary skills, equipment or experience to do the job.

So why exactly was On-Point Engineers paid more than R43 million to date by the Limpopo department of roads and transport to run a project management unit they couldn’t run?

Because, if the state is right, the company is partly owned by the “leader” of Limpopo, as Malema’s supporters outside court called him this week.

And the tender was ultimately a big scheme to fund Malema’s lavish lifestyle, property empire and Mercedes-Benz.

If the state is right, and Malema and his fellow accused are convicted, the people of Limpopo should be outraged that their taxes were used to buy a farm and a German sedan for the young man from Seshego.

That instead of fixing their potholes and building new roads, their money subsidised the champagne lifestyles of a small elite, dubbed the Limpopo Mafia by this newspaper last year.

The charge sheet presented to court this week reveals an elaborate scheme of family trusts, interlinked companies and crossed shareholding that were allegedly used to siphon off money from the Limpopo fiscus.

Gone are the days of “standard” corruption: the greedy politician, the generous businessman and the brown envelope.

We now live in an era where high-level, complex corrupt schemes are set up by professionals to conceal the identities of those involved.

The Malema-Ratanang-On-Point-Limpopo set-up was such a scheme, the state claims.

If there was ever a trial to test the capability of our criminal justice system for investigating and prosecuting complex commercial crimes, this is it.

If the crooks are getting smarter, are the police and NPA too?

The Jacob Zuma administration – Treasury in particular – has been vocal in expressing eagerness to fix and clean up South Africa’s increasingly corrupt tender system.

What has been done to do this? Has a chief procurement officer been appointed?

And when is the tender blacklist being updated?

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