A multimillion-rand contract meant to eradicate the use of pit latrines in schools was allegedly discussed privately by a contractor and education authorities before it was awarded.
City Press has seen WhatsApp messages allegedly sent in December to staff by Silas Mbedzi, the chief executive officer of The Mvula Trust (TMT).
The messages contain details of meetings with basic education authorities.
This was before the contract for the Sanitation Appropriate for Education (Safe) initiative was awarded to TMT earlier this year, allegedly without being formally advertised.
The department instead extended an existing contract it had with TMT for the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (Asidi), which began in 2011.
The messages were sent from a number assigned to Mbedzi.
He failed to respond to emailed questions or a WhatsApp message from City Press, and rejected calls made to him three times on Friday.
One WhatsApp message City Press obtained last week alleges that there was a meeting with Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and her director-general, Mathanzima Mweli.
But Motshekga’s spokesperson, Hope Mokgatlhe, said neither Motshekga nor Mweli had knowledge of such a meeting or the contents of the WhatsApp messages.
However, she confirmed that the department had extended an existing contract it had with TMT for the Asidi project to include the Safe initiative, in “accordance with applicable Treasury regulations”.
The WhatsApp messages state that the alleged meeting was “about the roll-out of eradication of pit latrines using a community-based approach, and small, medium and micro enterprises focusing on women and youth, meaning that we cut out professional service providers and manage those groupings ourselves”.
Another message alleges that there was a meeting with Motshekga “again at her home”, and that “she wants a plan if possible by the end of January 2019 and she wants me to present a plan on how we will roll out the implementation of pit latrine removal”.
However, Mokgatlhe said the department was unaware of the alleged visit to Motshekga’s residence and the purpose thereof.
She said the minister had nothing to do with procurement processes at the department.
Corruption Watch executive director David Lewis said it would seem irregular for a decision-maker to meet a supplier before a contract was awarded, however, he declined to comment further, saying he would need to verify such information first.
TMT, Mokgatlhe said, was one of the implementing agents that would appoint contractors for sanitation projects.
Last week, Mokgatlhe said a list of 3 898 schools was made available to the public after the launch of the Safe initiative in August “as some needed such information in response to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call for support”.
She said regulations allowed for contracts not to be advertised subject to Treasury approval.
“The department has not allocated funds to any implementing agency since the launch of the Safe initiative,” she said.
Mokgatlhe said a budget of R700 million had been set aside this financial year for the initiative.