A company of which the owner is socially linked to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leadership and initially investigated following the awarding of orders for pothole patching totalling more than R57 million by the then Department of Roads and Transport in 2012, is suspected of having been on the brink of benefitting from a lucrative R20 million deal as recently as October last year. The tender was, however, stopped due to apparent irregularities detected upon conclusion of the bid evaluation processes.
The company was initially under investigation with close to 30 other contractors in connection with the awarding of 87 orders for the patching of potholes along roads in four districts of the province in March 2011, it was reliably learnt. The total for work done on behalf of the Department of Transport then amounted to R57 433 347,02. Polokwane Observer was privy to documentation from an earlier investigation shedding light on work on potholes already existing in June 2010, and not as allegedly presented by departmental officials for damages caused by widespread floods six months later resulting in four districts of the province being declared disaster areas.
From the documentation made available to Polokwane Observer it was evident that several worrisome factors drew attention to the seemingly rash spending of taxpayers’ monies on the patching of potholes. It included more than one entity allegedly having received an order for the patching of potholes on the same road, the majority of payments appearing to have been initiated, authorised and paid within a day or two and payment certificates believed to have been standard certificates issued without verification that the work had actually been completed.
It was further alleged that individuals as young as 17 and 22 years of age had been given orders, one of them the son of an official then attached to the Department of Education.
The awarding of the R20 390 528,72 tender to a joint venture towards the end of October last year came under scrutiny earlier after a high ranking departmental official purportedly failed to take action against an employee in the supply chain division responsible for quality checks, who was allegedly found to be tampering with bid documents upon conclusion of the relevant processes.
The tender amount was allegedly changed from an original R19 876 903,79 awarded to another bidder. At the same time another tender for R17 314 078,32 would have simultaneously been awarded to a company that was also not the original preferred bidder that was decided upon, as stipulated in the original bid evaluation documents. The amount of the tender was allegedly adjusted from an original R16 686 990,54.
A disciplinary hearing arising from varying matters against the senior official is expected to continue mid-September. It was learnt that she had been defended by the same lawyers that appeared for EFF Leader Julius Malema in the On Point Engineering tender case, which was struck from the roll last month. According to information the employee in the supply chain division was allowed to resign prior to investigations against him having been finalised.
In related documentation an individual blew the whistle on an alarming scenario unfolding in the departmental structure, of which the former regime of rulers stands accused. In more than one instance there was mention of managers allegedly still reporting and liaising with them, seemingly “so that the status quo would remain in running the department”.
Also the appointments of senior managers to the departmental structure by the ex-HOD, Ntau Letebele has contributed to reason for concern among members of the current departmental workforce, alleging “that is why the (Cassel) Mathale group is still running the Department of Transport”. From another source came the suggestion for the MEC to ask Premier Stan Mathabatha to request a forensic audit into the conduct of departmental officials still appointed by Letebele. Officials within the structure were perceived over-sympathetic towards the EFF in certain instances, and according to one of several sources a similar situation prevailed in various other departments.
Simultaneously a plea of a political nature was made by a source for Transport MEC Mapula Mokaba-Phukwana to identify her own trustworthy confidantes to run the department.
When approached, Mokaba-Phukwana indicated that it was premature to comment as certain matters related to affairs of the department were currently being investigated by a team of investigators and the Hawks. Some issues dated back to when the department constituted Roads and Transport, she indicated in conclusion.
Story: YOLANDE NEL