Today the Sunday Tribune publishes proof of kickbacks involving suspended Dube TradePort CEO Rohan Persad.
Three weeks ago we revealed that Persad was involved in a suspected corrupt relationship with Alex McRoberts, a director of Worldwide Flight Service SA, which had a contract, estimated at R50 million a year, to handle the cargo terminal at Dube TradePort.
We also revealed that Persad had asked McRoberts to fly his wife to London and book her hotel.
Today we publish proof that Persad’s wife went to London and stayed at a five-star hotel paid for by McRoberts, the man accused of colluding with Persad in irregular dealings.
Allegations of corrupt dealings, revealed in the Sunday Tribune several weeks ago, led to Persad’s suspension and prompted a forensic investigation ordered by the Dube TradePort board of directors. Both Persad and McRoberts denied the allegations, which include that Persad asked for McRoberts to pay for his wife to fly business class to London and to cover her hotel bills in June last year.
The Sunday Tribune has seen correspondence, apparently between the two men, which show that Persad asked McRoberts to cover the costs. In addition, the Sunday Tribune has copies of the hotel bills that show Persad’s wife did stay at Kensington’s luxury Royal Garden Hotel.
Gilberte Marie Persad stayed at the hotel twice in June last year and hotel records reflect that McRoberts settled the bill using his credit card.
McRoberts is the former director of the now defunct Worldwide Flight Services SA, which had its contract at Dube TradePort cancelled by Persad after the two men fell out.
According to e-mail correspondence, Persad wrote to McRoberts in April last year saying he would like to send “the wife over to the UK in June as part of her half-century”.
Persad asked McRoberts to book a business class flight, “preferably British Airways”. He also asked McRoberts to pay for camera equipment.
Persad’s wife soaked up summer in London last year as part of her 50th birthday celebration in June.
She enjoyed panoramic views of London’s skyline from her superior king-size room, which accommodates two people and includes a separate lounge area.
She racked up a bill of about R50 000 during her nine-day stay at the hotel, which included accommodation, breakfast, local calls and drinks from the room’s mini-bar.
The Sunday Tribune was unable to confirm whether she flew business class as Persad requested. If she did, it would have added R60 000 to the cost of the trip.
The Sunday Tribune has information which suggests McRoberts made other payments to keep Persad, a former adviser of President Jacob Zuma, in his favour.
McRoberts and Persad have failed to respond to the allegations since the exposé.
However, Dube TradePort Board chairwoman Bridgette Gasa confirmed that all parties implicated in the scandal, including Persad, had responded to the board by last week.
She would not be drawn on the details of their responses, except to say that an audit firm had already begun to investigate.
It was learnt this week that PricewaterhouseCoopers will undertake the forensic probe. The public protector is also investigating the allegations, following a written request from the DA.
It was also established this week that the last auditor-general’s management report raised concerns about the awarding of contracts to another firm doing work for Dube TradePort.
The auditor-general’s report mentions work awarded to Virtual Consulting Engineers (VCE), and the name of a director of VCE has been linked to the allegations of collusion between Persad and McRoberts.
The report says of work given to VCE: “While it is considered common practice to extend contracts, such extensions should not amount to more than 20 percent of the original contract value, as that would be considered an infringement of the constitutional rights of other potential bidders by not giving them a fair and equal opportunity to bid for the provision of those services.”
It adds that the “accounting authority did not exercise oversight responsibility to ensure that the procurement processes of Dube TradePort are fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective”.
The total value of contracts awarded to VCE during the 2010/2011 financial year was more than R28m.
The Sunday Tribune recently reported that one of the directors of VCE, Ndumiso Luthuli, was allegedly put forward as the person to be used as a representative for Persad’s proposed 40 percent stake in Worldwide Flight Services SA.
Approached for comment, Luthuli, who is a lawyer, initially denied he had “any dealings whatsoever” with Persad, but later said he could not answer any questions due to the investigations that had begun at Dube TradePort.
The Sunday Tribune has received several calls from businessmen calling for all contracts, not just the Worldwide Flight Services SA contract, awarded by Dube TradePort to be investigated. They called for contracts around the AgriZone in particular to be checked thoroughly, claiming they were deliberately precluded from bidding for certain projects. - Sunday Tribune