Cape Town - Several former senior staffers at the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) have been arrested on charges related to fraud and contravening the Public Finance Management Act.
Former CEO Veliswa Budaza, CFO Catherine Motsitsi, and former chairperson Fanie Aaron Makhanya, alongside service provider Anix Consulting CC managing director Rhiyaan Cupido and his wife, Weedaad, appeared in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday.
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said they were charged with six counts of fraud and 21 counts of contravention of the PFMA after it was found they had failed to take effective and appropriate steps to prevent the unauthorised or irregular expenditure, fruitless and wasteful expenditure which led to an over-budget of R30 million.
In 2010 and 2011, the Department of Arts and Culture allocated funds to SAHRA for flagship projects to commemorate and recognise the role played by South Africans in and outside South Africa.
Ntabazalila said that as part of celebrating South Africa’s 20 years of democracy and centenary celebrations of the First World War, SAHRA undertook to rehabilitate burial sites of South African heroes.
The 2014 project was to transform the landscape at Delville Wood Memorial and Museum, in France.
The project was expected to be completed within 12 months, from March 23, 2015 to April/May 2016.
A budget of R20 million was set aside for the foreign grave project and R9.4m for the domestic grave project.
Anix Consulting CC was awarded the tender and a project team was appointed.
“The State alleges that between 19 June 2015 and 03 July 2015, the CEO and CFO instructed the agency’s employees to amend and expand the scope of work to include transformation of the landscape in Britain, Cuba, and the UK. The new scope included major restoration and rehabilitation of sites in Lesotho, Mozambique, Angola, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, Ntabazalila said.
“The increase in scope was not transparent, fair, and cost effective as required by the prescripts. SAHRA Council was not advised of the contract expansion, including financial reports of the project. As a result, the expenditure incurred for the upgrade of the foreign and domestic grave project increased to R54.2 million.”
The matter was reported to the Hawks in July 2017 for investigation and the Hawks’ Serious Corruption Investigation team based in Bellville arrested the accused on Wednesday.
The accused were granted R5 000 bail each and their next court appearance is scheduled for November 14. Ntabazalila said the accused would be joined by another suspect at the next appearance.
SAHRA’s Ben Mwasinga said the accused were not employed by SAHRA and had had no affiliation with the organisation since 2017, when the allegations emerged.