SIU wants more time to probe suspicious Umgeni Water contracts worth R328m

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SIU head Advocate Andy Mothibi is seen during an interview.
SIU head Advocate Andy Mothibi is seen during an interview.
Tebogo Letsie, Gallo Images, City Press
  • The Special Investigating Unit wants more time to investigate allegations of irregularities at Umgeni Water.
  • It is going ahead with civil litigation to recoup money from five problematic contracts amounting to R328 million.
  • Umgeni Water is KwaZulu-Natal’s largest bulk potable water supplier.

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has motivated for an extension of a proclamation allowing them to investigate several more allegations of irregularities at Umgeni Water - KwaZulu-Natal’s largest bulk potable water supplier.

On Wednesday, SIU head Andy Mothibi and other senior officials gave the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) an overview of their investigations into the Department of Water and Sanitation and water boards across the country.

SIU investigators probed the procurement and contracting for goods, works and services by Umgeni Water.

READ | Mchunu vows to recoup money looted from dept, and go after those 'who resign and run away'

Board members, officials and employees of Umgeni Water were also investigated for possible fraudulent or corrupt activities.

Unauthorised, irregular, or fruitless and wasteful expenditure incurred by Umgeni Water also came under the spotlight.

According to the SIU, payments were made for the following projects:

  • Upgrades to emergency boreholes in the Umkhanyakude District - R51 million;
  • Repairs and refurbishments to the Nagle Aqueduct - R57 million;
  • Replacements of filter slabs, and pipelines, including nozzles - R65 million;
  • Upgrade of chlorine distribution equipment and distribution of chlorine at the Durban Heights Plant, later extended to include the upgrading of shaft pumps and lifts - R130 million;
  • A project to provide emergency pipelines in the area of the Ugu District Municipality - R27 million;
  • Purchasing and installation of control valves - R55 million;
  • Installation of pipelines in the Nungwane area of Amanzimtoti - R80 million.

SIU lead investigator Leonard Lekgetho told MPs that the SIU was motivating for an extension to the proclamation, as more allegations have been uncovered during the course of the investigation.

The 20-metre long pipe
A large 20-metre long pipe, belonging to bulk water supplier Umgeni Water, was torn loose by flood waters and sent downstream, where it flattened a home in KwaNgcolosi, critically injuring two adults and resulting in three children missing and presumed dead.
Thabiso Goba

Furthermore, the SIU has briefed its civil litigation unit to institute civil proceedings with the Special Tribunal regarding five contracts with a cumulative value of R328 million.

The SIU wants these contracts set aside and declared invalid in order to recover state funds.

"The SIU has appointed a quantity surveyor to assist in the quantification of actual losses to Umgeni Water, with a view to institute civil action to recover same. The quantity surveyor has completed the work and is drafting his final report," Lekgetho said.

He said referrals to the National Prosecuting Authority were issued against 57 individuals accused of corruption, fraud, and money laundering.

Other charges include contravening the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, as well as the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, 

He added:

Referrals made to the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) in respect of 45 individuals and entities to recover the proceeds of crime in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act. [There were] 18 disciplinary referrals to Umgeni Water and 45 administrative action referrals to Umgeni Water for placing the entities and individuals on the Umgeni Water’s vendor list of defaulters and the National Treasury’s database of restricted suppliers.

Lekgetho said Umgeni Water had briefed a team of attorneys and advocates to deal with the disciplinary matters and administrative action referrals.

The final presidential report was drafted and in the final review process at the SIU.

READ | KwaZulu-Natal needs 'billions of rand', with a projected R857m for water pipe damage

The project's end date is 31 May.

While the investigation is complete, the project will be extended to 30 November for the support phase and to institute civil proceedings in the Special Tribunal.

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