Only one portion of this work was allegedly done, by a sub-contractor appointed by the joint venture’s own sub-contractor, an arrangement which is now the subject of litigation in the province. It was only after the public protector probed the matter that payments to the joint venture were stopped, some R230m later, in 2020. Among the officials charged alongside Magashule and Sodi is the head of the provincial department, Nthimotse Mokhesi. Mpambani was assassinated in 2017 in Johannesburg in an early morning hit that remains unsolved.
In yet another litigation processes, Sodi is suing Mpambani’s estate for his share of proceeds from the contract.
He notes: “The haste with which this Asbestos Eradication Project came to fruition is surprising. It appears little or no consideration was given to whether the project was needed, its timing, its scope and coverage and other matters relevant to the efficient and cost-effective execution of the project.”
In what appears to be a deliberate quest by Mokhesi to get funding approval for the project, National Treasury Regulation 16A was invoked. The regulation allows for the approval of a service provider without a state institution seeking an open tender process, provided that it can be proven that the service provider has successfully conducted the same service at another state institution, and that they were appointed through a legitimate procurement process. The onus is on the second institution to prove urgency in pursuing the service provider.
But the commission heard during oral evidence that although Blackhead had previously conducted an asbestos audit in Gauteng, and was on a supplier panel for that province that allowed for the company’s services to be sought again, its term on the database had lapsed by the time Mokhesi approved the appointment. Furthermore, Zondo finds, on the invocation of the treasury regulation, that Mokhesi deliberately misrepresented the facts in his submission for funding to the national Department of Human Settlements. He omitted the fact the new proposal was from a joint venture and not only from Blackhead, and on this basis, the funding should not have been approved.
“It would seem that neither competence nor negligence is in question. However, the context within which the errors were committed and the overwhelming nature thereof lead inexorably to the view that an agenda was being pursued which saw Treasury Regulation 16A6.6 as a ruse behind which to operate rather than a legitimate lawful procedure,” Zondo writes.
“In each part of the process there was deceit. There was the obfuscation as to the identity of the parties, unconcern whether correspondence dealt with appointment to a panel or participation in a contract, disregard for the lapse of, and therefore absence of, any contract in Gauteng in which the Free State could legitimately participate, and officials’ neglect of the different terms and conditions of the separate contracts. All this suggests more than mere inattention, incompetence on the part of those who purported to rely upon Treasury Regulation 16A6.6.
“The only conclusion which can be drawn from the undisputed facts, is that Mr Sodi and Mr Mokhesi both knew at all times that Treasury Regulation 16A6.6 was not available as a means to legitimise the contract which they both wished to secure without any competitive bidding process. They both took steps to conceal the inconvenient facts...”
This article was originally published on Corruption Watch.
Corruption Watch (CW) is a non-profit organisation launched in January 2012, and operates as an independent civil society organisation with no political or business alignment. CW is an accredited Transparency International chapter that fights against the abuse of public funds, relying on the public to report corruption. These reports are an important source of information to fight corruption and hold leaders accountable for their actions.