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Limpopo education MEC received more money from trust contracted to build toilets

2019-03-19 00:00

Following City Press’ report on how Limpopo education MEC Ishmael Kgetjepe was allegedly paid about R1 million by the Mvula Trust in the 2017/18 financial year, allegations of more payments have surfaced.

It has been alleged that Kgetjepe has been paid an additional R650 000 by the Mvula Trust.

In 2012/13 the trust won a multimillion-rand tender from the national basic education department to build toilets at schools in Limpopo, the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga, as part of the accelerated schools infrastructure development initiative, Asidi.

The R650 000 payment is reflected in an internal document seen by City Press, titled “Marketing and Advocacy”, that details payments made by the trust between 2016 and 2017.

However, Limpopo education spokesperson Sam Makondo has again denied that Kgetjepe received any money from the trust.

He also said no action would be taken by Kgetjepe against anyone who had used his name to solicit payments from the trust.

This was after the trust’s management told Nexia SAB&T auditors, which was hired to audit its books in 2017/18, that Kgetjepe asked for the money for “his constituency work and various political work at branch level” when auditors enquired about payments during the audit that year.

This statement, made by management to auditors, was confirmed by Mvula chief executive officer Silas Mbedzi, who said at the time that the payments were “allegedly” made to Kgetjepe.

Last week Mbedzi declined to comment on the additional R650 000 payments.

“Please note that the comments you have at your disposal are appropriate,” he said, referring to comments he made a fortnight ago.

Two weeks ago Mbedzi confirmed what was detailed in the auditor’s report.

According to this report, the managers of the trust told auditors that Kgetjepe asked for the money for “his constituency work and various political work at branch level”.

Insiders with knowledge of the operations of the trust alleged that the additional payments were made in the form of cheques cashed by the trust at two Standard Bank branches in Polokwane.

One source, who has since left the trust, said additional payments were made to Kgetjepe between 2016 and 2017.

The trust’s auditors in 2016, SizweNtsalubaGobodo (SNG), which has since been merged with Grant Thornton (GT), picked up the payments and questioned the amounts, but nothing happened thereafter, he said.

“Cheques were cashed and no electronic transfers were done, to ensure that there was no paper trail. In my years in accounting I’ve never seen anything like that.”

For further details, the source referred City Press to Richard Somanje, the trust’s former chief financial officer, who confirmed the allegations.

Somanje, who started working for the trust in March 2015 until he resigned in October last year, said he would get requests to process the payments from junior staff, who would say that they had been instructed by senior managers.

“It was said that if the payments were not made there was not going to be business. I think even SNG auditors found it difficult to understand and asked how management knew that the money was being paid, because there was no acknowledgement.”

Somanje said he had had no choice but to process payments. Although the board did acknowledge what was happening it “should have ensured the organisation complied and did things better. It reached a stage where I thought it (the board) was not working.”

The trust’s board chairperson, Asivhanga Tshibubudze, had not responded to City Press’ questions by the time of going to press.

A third source said the trust had transversal contracts with the provincial education department linked to Asidi.

SNG-GT chief executive Victor Sekese confirmed that SNG was the auditor for the trust from July 1 2013 to June 30 2017. He declined to comment further, citing client confidentiality, but said SNG was satisfied at all times that it complied with the professional and legal requirements pertaining to the audit and reporting processes.

Ross Linstrom, Standard Bank spokesperson, also declined to comment.

“The Code of Banking Practice prohibits the bank from discussing client relationships with third parties,” he said.

DISGRUNTLED CONTRACTORS LEFT HIGH AND DRY

City Press has learnt that some service providers have not been paid by the Mvula Trust for work done.

One of these, a contractor who built toilets and did not want to be identified, said he was owed more than R50 000.

“I’m a disgruntled contractor that Mvula Trust Limpopo still owes money from 2017. We complained at the MEC’s office, but got no help. Now I understand. We are many who are owed money, but they’re afraid to talk.”

But Mvula Trust CEO Silas Mbedzi said the trust had entered into joint building committee contract agreements with all its contractors.

These stipulated measurements of work to be done and required an invoice format which had to be adhered to in order to facilitate timeous payments.

Mbedzi said the invoice had to be accompanied by site progress reports, labour reports on how many people were employed per site as well as an occupational health and safety report, together with an updated tax certificate.

He said contractors were workshopped to enable them to comply with the requirements.

The bulk of them were not complying, but expecting payment with a one-page invoice without any of the attachments required.

“We also send our teams to verify whether work has been done in alignment with the actual invoice and to check on the quality of work done. We have learnt lessons of contractors who just want to be paid without complying with what is required. Some contractors are required to demolish shoddy work, because they are chasing after money without being concerned about quality,” Mbedzi said.

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December 8 2019