Johannesburg - A senior Public Works official has been fired for fraudulently paying contractors more than R60 million to renovate houses for new government ministers in 2009.
Noloyiso Ntwana, former director: prestige unit in the department, was fired for breaching the government’s procurement policy and appointing an unregistered quantity surveyor.
The charges relate to the events after Jacob Zuma became president in May 2009. As a result, houses for the new cabinet were available but needed to be renovated.
Charges against Ntwana come after an intensive investigation by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) in 2011, which linked her to the fraud. She did not attend the disciplinary hearings.
Ntwana approached the Labour Court to try to stop charges being brought against her but failed.
Phillip Masilo, legal adviser of Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi, confirmed that SIU evidence was used to prosecute Ntwana.
Masilo said a similar investigation is being conducted in Cape Town into the renovations of 10 ministerial houses which cost the department about R100m. “In Pretoria, the amount was approximately R63m,” Masilo said.
Ntwana faced five misconduct charges.
Mafanywa Mphage Quantity Surveyors and Project Managers were appointed as principal agent, but they were not architects; an architect was supposed to have been appointed.
Ntwana also failed to secure pre-tender estimates to prevent the state from suffering any losses or abuse during the period of renovations.
The charges further stated that Ntwana ensured the payment of professional fees to Mafanywa Mphage, who did not deserve it.
She was also charged with insubordination for allowing payments to corrupt companies, when advised against it. The State led the evidence of three officials and SIU investigator Jande van der Merwe.
Van der Merwe testified that Mafanywa Mphage was not professionally accredited to act as quantity surveyors.
Frans Johannes Potgieter, director: quantity surveying, testified that he became involved in the investigation after the state found a number of defects in the workmanship in the houses.
He said the defects were of such a nature that it “would be obvious to any other professional discipline or another person not necessarily involved in the building industry”.
Potgieter further testified that contractors were paid for just furnishing invoices.
“No architect was appointed for any of the houses in question. There were also arithmetic errors in the bills of quantities by the consultants,” he said.
He also said tender amounts were grossly inflated.
“In some of the houses, the cost was in excess of R5m – enough to build a new house.
“Some of the rates were so inflated that a particular project was definitely not value for money, and the consultant did not even prepare an estimate of any kind,” said Potgieter.
He said contractors were instructed to obtain quotations from suppliers and complete the work and costs paid without any verification.
Detailing how the state was robbed, Potgieter testified that in one case, Bhekanani Building and Construction CC invoiced the department for R149 000, stating it was for “electrical work” at a house in Centurion, without giving the breakdown of work done.
The same company also billed the department R5.4m for the renovations.
It also invoiced for blinds for the same house. Two invoices were submitted – one dated June 8, 2009 and another November 8, 2009 – for the same amount of R167 000.
Another invoice by the same company was for High Glass Air Conditioning, which was installed for R136 344, and an electric fence for R195 400.
Potgieter further testified that Ntwana approved payment of R6.5m to Maite Malatelo Business Enterprise CC for repairs and renovations for a house in Waterkloof, Pretoria, on June 7, 2010.
He further testified that Mafanywa Mphage was paid a consultancy fee of R49 636.71 for work not done on another house in Waterkloof. Potgieter also testified that Mafanywa Mphage motivated for the payment of another house in Waterkloof for more than R5.2m to Lilithalethu 41 CC. He said the amounts spent were not justified on those houses.
The presiding officer, advocate Lesego Montsho, accepted the evidence of the witnesses as it “demonstrates that the department suffered considerable financial loss running into millions of rand by paying for services that were never confirmed to have been rendered or for inflated statements of account”.
Ntwana did not respond to SMSes sent on her two cellphones. Her lawyer, Ndumiso Voyi, also failed to respond to questions e-mailed to him.
Ntwana joins a string of other officials who were fired for defrauding the government.
Masilo said the department was considering criminal and civil claims against Ntwana and various companies that benefited fraudulently in the deals.
He said Nxesi was not going to tolerate any form of corruption and misconduct because corruption robbed the state and taxpayers.