Firm accused of fraudulently getting R15.3m from govt in 'Covid-19 shack settlement scandal'

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A firm has been accused of fraudulently receiving money.
A firm has been accused of fraudulently receiving money.
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  • The the SIU found that the Aventino Group CC had fraudulently obtained a R15.3m tender to build temporary housing in Limpopo. 
  • Investigations led to the arrest of the company's director and officials from the Housing Development Agency on charges of fraud and corruption. 
  • The SIU will also be instituting civil proceedings in the Special Tribunal to review and set aside the R15.3m contract and recover the money lost. 

The Housing Development Agency has initiated the process of blacklisting a company found to have been allegedly fraudulently awarded a R15.3 million tender to build temporary housing units in Limpopo at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic last year.

Aventino Group CC is the company responsible for constructing the Talana Shacks on the R15.3 million tender that the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) has now found was allegedly fraudulently obtained. 

This week the SIU said that it found the tender was obtained fraudulently when the company "made misrepresentations and forged documents of industry experts with no links to the company to influence the direction of the bid".

READ | 'Evidence pointing to criminal action' - SIU says Mkhize can still be charged for Digital Vibes saga

Blacklisting the company would mean it can not do business with the state for a period not exceeding 10 years.

In 2020, Limpopo's Department of Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs contracted the HDA to build temporary housing for people who lived in cramped hostels during the Covid-19 pandemic.    

"The HDA appointed Aventino Group CC to construct Talana Transitional Residential Units (TRUs) in Talana and Burgersfort. Aventino Group continued to construct 40 of these units in Talana.

"The scope of work for Burgersfort was suspended by the HDA following the inspections and reports received from its sister agency, the National Home Builder's Registration Council (NHBRC)," the HDA said on Wednesday. 

The housing units came into the spotlight when Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha was heavily criticised and embarrassed when he handed over more than 40 shacks to residents in August last year.

READ | Digital vibes: Inside SIU's case against Mkhize - ignoring Cabinet resolutions, processes manipulated

Mathabatha subsequently reported the matter to the SIU for investigation. 

Investigations led to the arrest of the company's director Constance Mohlala,  project manager Raymond Maoto and four bid evaluation committee members from HDA. 

Involved

"HDA contracted a reputable law firm to assist with the internal investigations into allegations against its employees involved in this contract. Subsequently, three officials were placed on precautionary leave and subjected to a disciplinary process. One of the officials has since resigned from the organisation, and the other two were issued with final written warnings," said the HDA.

Meanwhile the National Prosecuting Authority said it was ready for the trial. 

"The State is ready to proceed with the pre-trial, though we know that the accused will have to find a new legal representative. The former lawyer has passed on," said NPA spokesperson Mashudu Malabi-Dzangi. 

The matter was due back in court in October.

All six have been charged with fraud and corruption. 

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