EThekwini official in court on R3.2m tender fraud allegations
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Durban - ETHEKWINI Municipality deputy head for supply chain management Sandile Ngcobo was back in court on Wednesday on allegations of tender fraud that cost the city R3.2 million.
Ngcobo, his wife Vuyiswa, businessman Nhlakanipho Mthembu and his business Inhlanzi Catering and Events and Mndeni Mkhize handed themselves over to the police yesterday after a warrant of arrest was issued by the Hawks.
Mthembu and his entity are named in the charge sheet as accused 1 and 2 while Ngcobo and his wife are listed as accused 3 and 4 and Mkhize is accused 5.
They were arrested by the Hawks National Clean Audit Task Team following an investigation into allegations of corruption in the municipality.
The four, plus one entity, appeared at Durban's Specialised Commercial Crimes court yesterday and were released on R10 000 bail each. They are expected back in court in February next year.
This was Ngcobo’s third appearance in court. He was first arrested in connection with the R400m Durban Solid Waste tender fraud that also involved the city’s former Mayor Zandile Gumede and municipal manager Sipho Nzuza.
The four face a string of charges that include fraud, corruption and money laundering.
The state alleged that Ngcobo had colluded with business people to undermine the procurement process of the municipality. It alleged that the Ngcobos had received gratification from this to the tune of R100 000 which they used to acquire a property.
There were no details on the nature of the tenders, but the Hawks said they were linked to the city’s Durban Solid Waste, some fraudulent and were sourced from the mayor’s office and Ngcobo had signed off on them.
It alleged that Ngcobo and the business people had undermined the procurement process through cover quoting.
They forged companies to create a mirage that different companies had competed for the tenders.
The state also alleged that Ngcobo and service providers had misled the municipality as they knew that the procurement processes had not been followed in the awarding of tenders to Mthembu and his entity Inhlanzi Catering and Events.
“The lawful procurement processes in line with the supply chain policies of the eThekwini Municipality were not followed by Ngcobo and Mkhize in awarding tenders to Mthembu and Inhlanzi Entity,” said the state in its charge sheet.
It alleged that there was conflict of interest between the municipal officials and the service provider which they should have declared but failed to do so. It said emergencies were created by Ngcobo and Mkhize which allowed for dispensing of formal procurement processes. The charge sheet did not elaborate on the nature of the conflict of interest.
This wrongdoing, the state said, caused financial impairment of R3.2m to the municipality.
State prosecutor Ashika Lucken recommended bail for R20 000, saying the amount reflected the seriousness of the crime, but representatives of the accused claimed they did not have that amount and could afford to pay half.
Attorney Justice Nzimande representing Mthembu said his client, “cannot afford to pay the R20 000 and said to impose such an amount was tantamount to indirect refusal of bail”.
Attorney Alex Crockart representing the Ngcobos requested his client to be released on his own recognisance, saying that this was the third matter that his client was appearing on and had paid thousands of rands in bail in other matters and had also demonstrated that he was not a flight risk.
As part of Ngcobo’s bail conditions, he was ordered not to engage with staff at the City Hall mayor's parlour and department heads.
Mayoral spokesperson Mluleki Mntungwa said the current city leadership was on record saying they want to run a clean government and were therefore co-operating with law enforcement agencies to ensure their work was unhindered.
“We will allow the law to take its course,” he said.