Mayor ‘ignored calls for tender probe’

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Copy of Copy of St Merafong 22 million335

THE STAR

A local man carries wood on his shoulders as he walks past an illegal dumping site near the Kokosi informal settlement. Picture: Itumeleng English

Johannesburg - Maphefo Mogale-Letsie, mayor of the Merafong local municipality in Carletonville, has ignored calls by the ANC to establish an independent forensic investigation into allegations of multimillion-rand tender fraud in her council.

The ANC in Carletonville took two separate resolutions urging the mayor to set up a forensic team after the municipal public accounts committee found that senior municipal officials - allegedly acting municipal manager George Seitisho in particular - awarded more than 21 tenders without following proper procurement policies. Seitisho was appointed in 2012.

Some of these tenders were worth millions of rand at a time the municipality was struggling to provide services to ratepayers, including replacing ailing infrastructure.

The first resolution to set up a forensic team was on March 27.

However, The Star understands that the ANC caucus in the municipality asked Mogale-Letsie to put it on hold until after the elections.

The caucus, which included ANC chief whip Happy Lwana, had cautioned that any announcement might backfire on the party’s election campaign.

Copy of St Merafong 22 million153

A wheelbarrow loaded with material to be used to erect a shack in the Kokosi informal settlement in the Merafong municipality. Picture: Itumeleng English

THE STAR

The caucus, ANC sources said, then directed the mayor to make an announcement immediately after the elections - which was not done. A similar call was made at a council meeting on May 29.

Allegations of tender fraud surfaced in May last year when IT company Brilliantel served the municipality with a R442 320.00 invoice. It was for the upgrading and development of the Merafong City website and intranet portal.

Julia Tsebe, manager of supply-chain management in Merafong, refused to sign it off, saying tender requirements had not been followed.

Tsebe told then chief financial officer MG Wienekus that procurement processes were not followed in the appointment of Brilliantel, but her concerns were ignored by Seitisho and other senior municipal officials.

Documents seen by The Star show that Seitisho and his executive directors recommended Brilliantel’s appointment on May 25. The memorandum did not include Tsebe’s signature.

Brilliantel was given an appointment letter only on June 14 - two days after Seitisho signed it off. In the appointment letter, Seitisho wrote: “Merafong City local municipality is pleased to inform you that you have been appointed to develop a website for Merafong City for a once-off price of R270 000 and a monthly hosting cost of R21 000 per month.”

In the memorandum to council to approve deviation from tender processes, Seitisho said: “The time for the development of the website is approximately four weeks and can therefore coincide with the demands of the new financial year starting on 1 July, 2013.”

The municipal public accounts committee (MPAC) refused to approve the deviation.

The councillors queried an amount of R22m in the quote dated May 17 last year, reference No Mer01 from Brilliantel, and another from Brilliantel dated May 14 last year for R1 035 407.10, “which made MPAC to be uncertain whether money was paid out to Brilliantel or not”.

The committee also noted the invoice of R442 320.00 sent to the council by Brilliantel prior to their appointment to do the job.

“MPAC found it strange that the quotations were made on 14 May, 2013 and May 17, 2013 before the deviation request report was approved by the accounting officer, which is May 29, 2013.

“The deviation was done to cover up times lost for the development of the website. Regulations 32 of the supply-chain management was abused and violated, for example, there are no other documents from Thaba Chweu and Mogale City municipalities – they only submitted documents as reference letters,” the MPAC report stated.

According to the report, Seitisho failed to provide them with:

* An annual procurement plan;

* Tender/adverts (7 days);

* Three quotations;

* Procurement minutes;

* An appointment letter;

* An invoice;

* Tax-clearance certificate; and

* Declaration of interest.

The report, says Seitisho, only gave them documents asking them to approve his decision to deviate from supply-chain management.

The councillors then recommended to Mogale-Letsie to appoint external forensic investigators to probe the violation of tender procedures.

Although she promised to respond to all our questions in a telephonic discussion, Mogale-Letsie failed to do so.

Meanwhile, the chief executive of Brilliantel, Maanda Phalanndwa, has denied claims his company invoiced the municipality for an amount of R442 320 prior to them getting an appointment letter.

Phalanndwa said the municipality was billed for only R520 000 for the project.

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