Senior Mpumalanga officials face R30m tender corruption charges

2018-08-22 14:45

Former Mpumalanga legislature speaker, Thandi Shongwe, and two senior officials face charges of tender fraud and corruption to the value of R29.4 million.

This is the latest in a string of cases that the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has opened against high-ranking politicians and senior officials in all spheres of the Mpumalanga government over the past two years.

Shongwe was redeployed to be MEC for the department of culture, sport and recreation when Premier Refilwe Mtshweni appointed her cabinet in March, shortly after she was sworn in to replace Deputy President David Mabuza. She will face the charges alongside legislature secretary, Linda Mwale, and chief finance officer, Mbuso Mpika.

The EFF case is based on the Auditor-General’s findings in relation to two tenders – a R9.9-million tender for the supply of photocopiers for a three-year period that was irregularly awarded to Junox 210 CC on July 1, as well as a security and data integrity (known as SAP) contract worth R19.6 million that was awarded to a controversial company, Frugacode CC.

Mpumalanga legislature spokesperson Zamagambu Gamede said that the legislature would cooperate with the police.

“Now that EFF decided to open a case instead of reporting these matters to the internal structures such as the Select Committee on Public Accounts and the legislature’s oversight committee, we will allow the law to take its course,” Gamede said.

The Auditor-General’s office found that Junox 210 – like 13 other companies that were disqualified during the bid evaluation process for failure to provide certain documentation – did not submit a valid tax clearance certificate.

“None of the prospective bidders met the mandatory requirement of submitting an original valid tax clearance certificate, however Junox 210 CC was not declared unresponsive,” the Auditor-General found.

The auditors also found that another company, Lowveld Office Automation (Pty) Ltd Xerox, would have scored the highest points for price because it charged R1.9 million and should have been evaluated because it met the minimum threshold of 70 points but that did not happen.

Instead, the tender was awarded to Junox 210 despite the fact that the average price of all disqualified bidders was 46% lower than the R9.9 million the company had quoted.

“The bid was awarded to the wrong bidder [and] the award is not considered to be market-related. The budget for the project was R8 million. However, the award to the winning supplier was R9 828 438.54,” reads the audit finding.

“There’s no indication that the price was subject to negotiation. The previous supplier of photocopiers was paid [R11.1 million] for a period of eight and half years plus approved extensions for the supply of 16 copy machines. The contract awarded to Junox is for 17 photocopy machines for a period of three years.”

Frugacode CC’s SAP contract, the auditors found, was awarded unfairly because Frugacode used an SAP accreditation certificate that was not registered in its own name.

“The process is unfair as the fact that an SAP certificate not issued in the prospective bidder’s own name could be used was not common knowledge and was not clearly stipulated in the advert or bid document, thereby preventing prospective bidders from bidding,” the auditors found.

Frugacode is not new to controversy. Last year, provincial department of culture sport and recreation head, Walter Mnisi, quit his job when the costs of Frugacode’s R4.9-million contract ballooned to R35.3 million. Mnisi and Frugacode director, Thabiso Jacques Mathebula, signed an addendum to increase Frugacode’s scope of work but Treasury head of department, Nombedesho Nkamba, turned down Mnisi’s request to pump more money into the project.

EFF’s Mpumalanga chairperson, Collen Sedibe, said that the party decided to lay charges because Shongwe did not take any action against the wrongdoers.

“The Public Finance Management Act demands that the speaker should act against any transgressions and hold the transgressor accountable but Shongwe did not do so,” Sedibe said.

Other charges the EFF has laid against high-ranking officials

The EFF has laid a number of criminal charges against government officials over the past two years.

One of those is against Deputy President David Mabuza who was Mpumalanga premier when the case was opened in November 2016.

The EFF accused Mabuza of fraud relating to a land claims scandal in the Badplaas area, where farms were sold to the Land Claims Commission at inflated prices in 2003.

Mabuza allegedly formed a task team to assist a businessman, Pieter Visagie, to be paid R3.3 million by the Mpumalanga Land Claims Commission. He was agriculture MEC at that time.

Visagie has been widely accused as a mastermind of the land scam. He allegedly approached farmers to sell him the land using front companies. Visagie then sold the land to the commission at inflated prices – up to 2 300 % more than their market value – for the benefit of the Ndwandwa Community Trust.

Other cases include:

• A R22-million overdraft that former Nkomazi mayor, Thulisile Khoza, and municipal manager, Dan Ngwenya, allegedly applied for without a council resolution;

• Former Mpumalanga legislature speaker, Thandi Shongwe allegedly awarding tenders to companies linked to ANC Ehlanzeni chairperson, Ngrayi Ngwenya; and

• The City of Mbombela for interviewing candidates for jobs on Good Friday last year and employing unqualified people as security officers.

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August 18 2019