File picture: Eric Gay/AP

Johannesburg - Criminal charges have been laid with the Hawks following a dodgy transaction in which a company was “loaned” 300 000 barrels of crude oil worth R200 million, by the Strategic Fuel Fund (SFF), without proper procurement processes.

The company offered to retrieve crude oil stored in a mine during apartheid days on condition it was loaned the 300 000 barrels of oil from the nation’s strategic reserved. It was agreed it would keep 70% of recovered oil while the remaining 30% would go to the SFF.

The Sunday Independent has seen documents which reveal how the crude was sold to a company based in Switzerland with the approval of then SFF chief executive officer Sibusiso Gamede.

Sources have told The Sunday Independent that in February 2015, a then relatively unknown black-owned company, Enviroshore, borrowed the barrels of oil sludge worth R200m from SFF to help fund the recovery of crude stored in the Ogies coal mine in eastern Mpumalanga.

The documents also reveal how in terms of the agreement between SFF and Enviroshore, the borrowed oil sludge was supposed to be returned to SFF in November last year.

However, Enviroshore missed the contractual deadline to replace it, prompting SFF to take legal action.

The Sunday Independent understands SFF has, without any success, written to Enviroshore demanding the company leave the mine.

The apparent lack of action against those implicated has prompted former City of Joburg councillor Leanne Williams, who was recently appointed to the board of SFF’s sister company PetroSA, to take it upon herself to provide the Hawks with the necessary evidence regarding what she called “blatant theft of the nation’s resources by the politically connected and the powerful”.

“I approached the Hawks after receiving very credible information from a whistle-blower,” she said.

As a responsible citizen I could not turn a blind eye to the corruption taking place at SFF.

“The time has come for police and other law-enforcement agencies to take decisive action without fear or favour, even against the so-called untouchable politically connected families and powerful politicians.

“If our police want us to believe that they are committed to tackling crime decisively, they must start acting against the big fish.

“Our courts must also stop giving bail to politicians who betray citizens' trust and steal from the poor to enrich themselves and their families,” Williams said.

It is understood former energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson commissioned UK-based law firm Allen and Overy to conduct a forensic investigation into more than 30 fuel contracts entered into by the SFF, including the 300 000 barrels of crude loaned to Enviroshore.

The company was not available for a comment at the time of going to print.

The Sunday Independent understands the findings of the report, which has been handed over to SFF board and newly appointed Energy Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi are damning.

In an interview with the paper, Kubayi confirmed being in possession of the report but flatly denied sharing its findings.

She said that the report would be made public once its recommendations, which included taking disciplinary action against implicated officials, had been implemented.

Kubayi confirmed there had been impropriety in the deal, adding that the National Treasury “said in terms of procedure, the SFF was supposed to have approached the Treasury to request concurrence".

“In terms of the law, if you are to dispose, the finance minister must agree.

“This was not done and the explanation is that the department was not aware that there was a sale going.”

“When I got into the department, I received the report of Allen and Overy. The report confirmed sale of stock.

“It also indicated gaps and governance collapse at Central Energy Fund.

“The report recommended consequences in terms of disciplinary action.”

Kubayi said she and her department would in the next few weeks be taking action in line with the recommendations of the report.

Kubayi, who has previously threatened criminal charges against those implicated in the controversial sale of 10million barrels of the country’s strategic oil stocks at bargain basement prices between December 2015 and January last year, said her department and its subsidiaries were undergoing an audit.

“If there’s anything is raised by the auditor-general, I will definitely act.”

Sunday Independent