State capture inquiry: Director says his company did not have 'expertise' to handle asbestos

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Chief justice Raymond Zondo.
Chief justice Raymond Zondo.
Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24
  • A director told the state capture inquiry his company does not have accreditation to handle asbestos.
  • A joint venture between two companies secured the multimillion-rand "asbestos auditing" contract.
  • The director said there was no competitive bidding in the Free State appointment.

Blackhead Consulting director Edwin Sodi, who was involved in the Free State asbestos audit project, conceded that his company did not have the certification needed to handle asbestos.

The multimillion-rand contract was secured in 2014 by a joint venture between Sodi's company, engineering consultancy firm Blackhead Consulting, and the late Ignatius "Igo" Mpambani's Diamond Hill Trading 71.

"I admit that we had the necessary skills and expertise to conduct the assessment and audit, but not to handle asbestos.

"For that you needed to be accredited. Not anyone can handle asbestos... we would not even have gone to that stage because we know we can't handle asbestos due to the fact that we are not accredited," said Sodi, who was testifying before the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture on Friday.

Sodi said his company made an application to be appointed on two phases.

The first phase was to assess and audit asbestos housing units and the second phase was the eradication.

Sodi said, with regard to phase two, he would have found an accredited service provider to perform the work.

"We certainly wouldn't have gone ahead with the eradication," he said.

"You are asking the department to appoint you to do something that you yourself admit you have no expertise to do. That you yourself admit, you need accreditation to do, and you yourself admit you don't have accreditation.

"My question is why do you ask the department to appoint you to do something that you don't have the expertise to do, you know it requires accreditation, you know you don't have accreditation for?" the inquiry chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, asked Sodi.

READ | Zondo commission: Businessman confirms document linking Magashule to kickbacks was created on his PC

Sodi said: "Perhaps we shouldn't have asked the department to appoint us for phase two. As it turned out, we were never appointed for phase two."

Zondo also told Sodi he should have disclosed to the department that the skills or experience he has relates to assessment and audit and that, as far as the handling and the disposal of asbestos is concerned, he had a plan how to deal with that. Sodi agreed.

When asked if he disclosed to the Department of Human Settlements that he intended to employ sub-contractors, Sodi said he did not have the discussion with the department, "but I do not know if my partner (Mpambani) may have disclosed that. But personally I did not have that discussion with the department".

Sodi also told the commission that there was no competitive bidding, at least when it came to the Free State appointment.

He testified that he received a call from Mpambani in February 2014, who met him at his house to discuss the project.

Sodi said Mpambani told him that he was aware that he (Sodi) was handling the Gauteng asbestos project and wanted them to partner.

Mpambani said he would speak to officials in the Free State to "unlock" opportunities.   

He also told the commission he was not aware about the arrangement made to get sub-contractors to do the work. 

The joint venture sub-contracted Master Trade, who, in turn, sub-contracted another company.

"I said why were you not honest with me about this arrangement," Sodi told the commission.

He also told the commission that he only realised later he was in a partnership with someone who was "not honourable".

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