Inside the Hawks raid on eThekwini staff allegedly involved in R700m racket
Durban - THE homes of 15 officials of the eThekwini Water and Sanitation Unit and service providers to the unit were raided on Tuesday as part of an investigation into tender fraud and corruption amounting to about R700 million.
Officials of the National Prosecution Authority, the Asset Forfeiture Unit, Digital Forensic Services, Crime Scene Management, the National Intervention Unit and the Financial Intelligence Center participated in the raids, during which six vehicles - including a Porsche Cayenne GTS, a Range Rover and a BMW - cellphones, bank cards, laptops, hard drives and desktops were seized.
A source said the vehicles were found at the property of a service provider in Kenyon Howden Road in Montclair.
“Junior personnel are living the lives of multimillionaires and this has been going on for over 10 years with no action taken to stop the rot. All these stakeholders in this operation have been used to unpack the severity of the crimes committed by a very well-orchestrated criminal enterprise working within the Water and Sanitation Unit of the eThekwini Municipality,” said the source.
“The R700 million is over and above the raid which was reported in July to recover around R200 million. In some cases, no work was done and misrepresentations were made on recovered invoices. In others, there were no authorised signatures as per the requirement for approval, and payments were approved without checks and balances.
“There are individuals who bought properties using this illegally gained money and rented them out, and that is tantamount to money laundering.”
In July, the Daily News reported that the Hawks and Assets Forfeiture Unit swooped on 11 houses belonging to various officials from the same unit, who are believed to be involved in corruption worth an estimated R200m.
Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said yesterday’s raids were conducted at 15 of 18 properties in Woodlands, Morningside, Chatsworth, Merebank and Montclair.
“The National Clean Audit Task Team discovered in June 2020 that R200 million was allegedly siphoned from the municipality, and it has now been determined that a further R500million has allegedly been embezzled from the department. It is alleged the R700 million is the proceeds of crime derived from service providers who were supposed to render services for the water and sanitation unit and claimed to have provided such services while they were not carried out. Misrepresentations were allegedly made to the municipality and in some instances, no authorised signatures as per requirement for approval were endorsed on the invoices,” he said.
Mulaudzi said despite the alleged falsification of documents, payments were approved and significant amounts channelled to officials for their benefit.
“During the operation, various items including a number of laptops, desktops, hard drives, cellphones, bank cards, company details, invoices and company registration documents were seized for analysis. No arrests have been made as yet as investigations are continuing.”
Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda said: “In the event of any wrongdoing, no one must impede our law enforcement agencies’ work.”
Corruption Watch said it took a significant collaborative effort to achieve a common criminal goal.
“For such individuals to succeed, there would have to be a systemic weakening of processes meant to protect the city against corruption. Only then could resources be exploited to the point that R700 million goes missing,” senior writer Valencia Talane said.
She said it was encouraging to witness law enforcement agencies being enabled to act on wrongdoing.
“Justice will be fully served when the monies alleged to have been looted are recovered and responsible parties face the consequences. Regular monitoring and reviewing of procurement processes and the legislative resources that protect them need to happen to help avoid corrupt acts recurring. The same goes for the training of staff who work in the procurement space,” she said.