Kimberley - Court proceedings continued in the Trifecta fraud and corruption trial in the Northern Cape High Court on Thursday, despite the absence of the chief executive officer of Trifecta Holdings (Pty) Ltd, Christo Scholtz, who has taken ill.
Scholtz along with ANC provincial chairman John Block, Member of Parliament and former head of department (HOD) for Social Development Yolanda Botha as well as the ANC deputy provincial secretary and the former MEC for Social Development Alvin Botes, are facing charges of fraud, corruption and money-laundering involving an amount of R100 million.
The charges relate to the lease of government offices belonging to the Trifecta group of companies to the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa), Department of Social Development, Department of Sport, Arts and Culture as well as the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development.
Scholtz’s legal representative, advocate Jaap Cilliers SC, proposed that the trial continues without his client because it should not delay court proceedings.
He provided the court with a medical certificate and indicated that the illness was not serious.
Addressing the court on the State’s objection to the discharge and acquittal of the accused in terms of Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act, State advocate Peter Serunye said that Botha, as the accounting officer, had contravened the prescripts of the Public Finance Management Act.
He said that it was her duty to ensure that the leases were advertised in the tender bulletin.
“Failure to ensure that these tenders are properly advertised impedes the principles of transparency and the process of open bidding. The buck stops with her because it was her duty to ensure that the government does not incur unnecessary irregular, wasteful or unauthorised expenditure. She cannot be exonerated by saying that she had delegated these duties to her juniors who failed to comply with the regulations.”
Serunye outlined how a similar pattern unfolded when the leases were awarded to Trifecta for buildings in Springbok, Upington, Douglas, Kimberley and Kuruman.
He said leases were signed with Trifecta before the mandatory 21-day period had lapsed to allow for other competitive bidders to submit tenders.
“Lease agreements were entered into without obtaining permission to deviate from the tender processes. Botha was biased, in favour of entering into lease contracts with Trifecta.”
Serunye added that Botha had gone beyond what Trifecta had offered in the tender for the Summerdown offices in Kuruman translated into wasteful expenditure.
“The lease was never advertised in the tender bulletin. Trifecta submitted a bid for a 10-year lease at an escalation price of eight percent. The bid evaluation committee accepted their offer on condition that the lease was signed for five years with an option to extend it for another five years.
“Botha approved the tender after amending the lease period be increased to 10 years with an option to renew for another 10 years along with an escalation price of 9,5 percent.”
He stated that the Douglas lease similarly lacked transparency.
“The Department of Social Development leased a building from the late Trifecta director, Sarel Breda, who was not willing to only lease half of the building that was utilised by two officials. The rented space offered a 400-square-metre boardroom facility. If the service provider was not prepared to lease half the space, they should have looked for another service provider.”
Serunye added that the deviation for the Du Toitspan Building in Kimberley could not be justified.
“There are certain processes to be followed in the event of immediate urgency. If the deviation was never approved before the lease was signed. The department never moved in immediately after the lease was concluded, therefore the sense of urgency cannot be qualified.”
The case was postponed until May 9 for judgment on the application for the discharge and acquittal of the accused.
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