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CANDICE BAILEY AND DIANNE HAWKER
Six senior North West officials fingered in a forensic report regarding a R600 million white elephant building are yet to face any punitive action.
A report by forensic investigators from Gobodo Inc, an audit firm, recommended disciplinary and criminal action be taken against four provincial Public Works and two Health officials in the province.
Gobodo was appointed by then acting head of the provincial Public Works department Mmabatho Mfikwe after provincial Treasury and losing bidder TEB Properties raised concerns about the tender.
But two years after it was commissioned by the department, none of the officials has faced action. Surprisingly, the same department denies seeing or tabling the report.
The Sunday Independent has, however, seen a copy of the report dated February 2011, saying disciplinary steps were recommended against former director of property at provincial Public Works, Pandora Hlakanye, for allegedly failing to “execute herself in a professional and competent manner and for evidently failing to deal accountably with public funds”.
Hlakanye is now chief director of property in the same department.
Departmental or criminal steps were recommended against former provincial Public Works head of department Obakeng Mongale for allegedly breaching the Public Finance Management Act and “for failing to ensure that the Department of Public Works had and maintained an appropriate (and fair) procurement and provisioning system”.
Mongale is now executive manager for specialised hospitals and medical support services at the North West Health Department.
The report recommended departmental and criminal action be considered against former provincial Health superintendent-general Dr Keneilwe Lydia Sebego for “committing the Department of Health to the liability of the lease agreement for which money had not been appropriated”.
Steps should be taken, according to the report, against Vuyo Mbulawa, former chief director of corporate services in Health allegedly “for failing to execute his duties in a professional and competent manner”.
And disciplinary action was also recommended against members of the entire bid adjudication and evaluation committees.
All of the people mentioned in the report have refused to comment because they say they never saw the report and were not presented with any findings.
North West Public Works spokesman Matshube Mfoloe said no action could be taken against the individuals because there was no final report.
“I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of the final report from the investigators, save to point out that at no stage was that report ever tabled before any meeting of the senior management of the Department of Public Works, Roads and Transport,” he said.
Mike Terheyden, who signed the Gobodo report, was out of the country.
Senior partner at Gobodo Inc, Lungile Monty, declined to comment.
Provincial Health spokesman Tebogo Lekgethwane said the department viewed the Gobodo report as interim, and would only be able to decide what to do once Gobodo provided the final report.
Although it is marked “final report” in every page, it is marked interim in some of the paragraphs.
The tender exploded after TEB Properties and a number of other bidders were disqualified as their bids were considered “high risk” because they were far below the R40m-a-year rental the department had anticipated paying.
TEB Properties had put in two tenders – one at R23.2m a year and the other at R26.6m a year with the required 8 percent escalation.
But Peolwane Properties won the contract because it was closest to the department’s R40m pre-estimate.
Before putting out the tender, provincial Department of Health staff were located in four separate buildings in Mafikeng, where the rental was between R75m² and R90m². The total rental paid for all four buildings was just over R1m a month.
According to Gobodo, the rental for the new building would be about R207m², or R3.9m a month – a 174 percent increase on what the department was paying for the four buildings.
“(This) could impact significantly on the core business of the Department of Health as the increased rental costs would have a negative impact on the total budget for delivery of health services to the public,” Gobodo wrote.
Gobodo raised several other concerns, including the fact that Peolwane did not attend the compulsory pre-bid meeting.
Kuvashen Padayachee, attorney representing Peolwane said: “The Gobodo report has not been mentioned in any of our extensive meetings with the three government departments, nor has it even been referred to in court papers put forward by the departments.
“On that basis I would struggle to place any reliance or authority on the contents of same as it is not before the Court.”
He denied that the rental was R206m², saying the figure was rather R150m².