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EFF probes dead end projects

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The EFF has submitted an application in terms of the Promotion to Access to Information Act for documents relating to multimillion Rand tenders that were awarded by the Thembelihle Municipality, where little to no work was completed.

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THE EFF has submitted an application in terms of the Promotion to Access to Information Act for documents relating to multimillion Rand tenders that were awarded by the Thembelihle Municipality, where little to no work was completed.

National Treasury commissioned Open Water Advanced Risk Solution (Pty) Ltd to conduct a forensic investigation into the appointment of service providers for the Hillside electrification project and upgrading of the Hopetown sports stadium.

The Hopetown project included the construction of a football field, spectator grandstand, upgrading of the brick fence, electrification of the facility, upgrading of the multi-purpose court and the construction of a security ticket booth to the value of R11,5 million in 2020/21.

Open Water recommended that the Thembelihle Municipality appoint a quantity surveyor to confirm the extent of work not performed and determine the value of inflated claims for both projects.

It advised that the transactions of both service providers should be reported to the SAPS for further investigation for suspected fraudulent and corrupt conduct.

The municipality paid R2,2 million to a service provider for the electrification of 50 houses during the 2017/’18 financial year, although no services were provided.

The former mayor of Thembelihle Municipality, Leonard MaKenna, requested an urgent meeting with National Treasury in January, this year to discuss irregular expenditure on these projects.

Makenna, who was removed as the mayor in April, indicated that none of the findings were implemented while council refused to table the forensic report.

“It can’t be that so much money was spent on such an important investigation, in vain. We will entertain these matters in court after the elections.”

EFF provincial chairperson, Shadrack Thlaole, gave the Thembelihle Municipality until May 22 to provide the disciplinary report of an official implicated in the report, who was suspended but has since been reinstated.

According to the forensic report, supply chain management processes were not followed while the service provider, that was appointed through the sourcing of grant funding for the upgrading of the stadium, failed to meet the tender criteria and was not registered with the Construction Industry Development Board.

It advised that councillors, who took “extraordinary measures” to secure the appointment of the entity, be criminally charged for influencing the irregular appointment.

It added that the appointment resulted in irregular expenditure where false claims were submitted.

“The construction of the multi-purpose court, lighting and grass were materially inflated. It is also evident that the work was of an inferior standard. Some of the work such as the painting of the grandstand had to be redone. Other areas that were never used are in need of repair and may represent a safety risk such as the ceiling of rooms under the grandstand that collapsed.”

The report added that the misrepresentation of the expenditure of conditional grants could constitute financial misconduct and or fraud.

It added that a R27,5 million tender was awarded in 2017/18 for professional electrical engineering services of the Goutrou and Hillside projects to electrify 1,147 houses at an average cost of R23,976 per house.

“The service provider received R19,3 million during 2018 and 2019, during which time it provided electricity infrastructure to 535 houses, at a cost of R36,121 per house. At the approved subsidy amount of about R19,500 per house the expenditure would amount to R12,826,840 for 535 houses.”

The report indicated that Thembelihle municipality suffered prejudice to the amount of R6,4 million as it failed to electrify 612 properties for which funding was approved.

“During 2021 and 2022 the contractor continued work on site without submitting claims indicating that the work was previously claimed.

“The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy recalled R7 million of the subsidy amount for the 2019 financial year as a result of unspent funds and cancelled further subsidies during the 2020 financial year due to discrepancies in the claims submitted compared to work performed.”

The investigation added that the municipal manager and chief financial officer (CFO) co-signed claims when the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent engineer refused to do so.

It stated that funds were reflected as being spent on the project while amounts were invoiced for work not yet done.

“By extending the appointment it provided the service provider with an opportunity to complete the work. When the municipality was unable to fund the payments from other sources, the contractor could not complete the work.” .

The report pointed out that the municipal manager of the Thembelihle Municipality resigned with effect from June 30 2021 although he facilitated the appointment of the service providers.

It indicated that the CFO had failed to advise the municipal manager and council on the illegality of the appointment of service providers and “actively participated” in the process.

“He was a member of the bid committees and was party to the manipulation of the process and the unsubstantiated disqualification of bidders. He approved payments to the service provider after being made aware that its claims were inflated.”

In response to media enquiries this week, National Treasury confirmed that no meetings were held with Thembelihle municipality in January.

“Open Waters was appointed by Treasury from its panel of firms to assist with the forensic investigation on the electrification project for 25 households in Hillside township and the upgrading of the sports field in Hopetown, after being approached by the the Thembelihle local municipal mayor and Speaker in 2022.

“The report was concluded on December 6, 2022 and was shared with the municipal manager, mayor and the MEC for the Department of Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs for the implementation of the recommendations on December 7 2022.”

It indicated that two council meetings that were scheduled for the presentation of the report did not convene.

“The first meeting was scheduled for September 23, 2022 and did not form a quorum. The second meeting was scheduled for November 24, 2022 but was cancelled.”

The acting municipal manager of the Thembelihle Municipality, Kgomodikae Leserwane, indicated that he would first respond to the EFF’s request before providing a response to the media.

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