Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha. Picture Supplied.
The Hawks raided the offices of Limpopo premier, Stan Mathabatha, and several houses on Friday confiscating computers and a number of official documents relating to his international trips over the past five years.

Three travel agencies who handled Mathabatha’s international bookings and officials in his office were also raided.

The raid comes after an internal report - which Mathabatha allegedly has been sitting on - lifted the lid on widespread tender rigging, nepotism, collusion and abuse of office allegedly involving officials in his office.

Mathabatha spokesman, Kenny Mathivha, said the premier welcomes the probe into international trips.

“We will fully co-operate with them (Hawks) to ensure that no stone is left unturned. The Hawks letter of intent is aimed at investigating international travels to check if there are any shenanigans,” he said.

Hawks spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi on Saturday confirmed the raid but refused to give more details.

“The DPCI (Hawks) is working on confidential information that suggests some procurement irregularities and based on such information there was a search and seizure operation that targeted five premises. Among those is the supply chain office that is situated in the premises housing the premier’s office. The enquiry is still ongoing and there are no arrests. We are not at liberty to divulge the content of the docket,” he said.

An internal report, seen by Sunday Independent this week, implicates several supply chain management (SCM) officials who allegedly colluded with travel agencies to inflate invoices and create fictitious trips.

The officials also allegedly rigged tenders, awarding lucrative contracts to friends and relatives, and using state resources to run private businesses from the premier’s office as far back as 2014.

Nehawu chairperson in the premier’s office, Norman Mavhunga, also confirmed on Saturday that about 20 Hawks officers raided Mathabatha’s office at around 11am and also searched the premises of two travel agencies in Polokwane.

“There were challenges of the over escalation of prices, where in certain instances, you have got people buying for 250% of what they get from the primary service provider. For example, If I want to go to Cuba, these guys, having covered their money for bribes, I would pay about R30 000. But they would bill the office the amount of R240 000. At times they even fabricate quotations of service providers,” said Mavhunga.

A senior government official, who asked not to named, said the scam has been going on for years.

“I know of an instant where three officials who travel on the same flights, same class and even stayed at the same hotel but their invoices were completely different by thousands of rands.

“But payments could be made without questioning the discrepancies because some of the officials from the premier’s office were also benefiting financially from the scam,” the official said.

An internal report, seen by Sunday Independent this week, implicates several supply chain management officials in tender rigging, nepotism and collusion in the awarding of catering and events management contracts.

The officials also allegedly rigged tenders, awarding lucrative contracts to friends and relatives, and using state resources to run private businesses from the premier’s office as far back as 2014.

The report was compiled by Stephen Masuku in February 2015 after being commissioned by the premiers office to probe allegations of misconduct against a supply chain management employee.

According to the report, Jafta Lebese an ANC Lepelle-Nkumpi su-regional secretary, allegedly rigged several events management and catering contracts for the benefit of family and friends including his own mother in April 2014.

Lebese, allegedly used state resources to create quotations and invoices for several entities.

They included Reyakopele Trading, whose sole director is his mother Anna Tsatsawane. Lebese also sent the bid documents using state resources to the Lepelle-Nkumpi Municipality and the departments of health and social development in Limpopo, among others.

Tsatsawane was given a contract to cater for 500 people at a Human Rights Day rally hosted by the Premier’s Office at Ga-Chuene village outside Polokwane in March 2014.

“He further used the state resources to create quotations and invoices to the benefit of other companies. He used his position to advantage the suppliers whose quotations he created using his desktop allocated to him by the employer,” read part of the report.

Nchabeleng denied claims by Mavhunga that Mathabatha protected Lebese for political reasons. He said the premiers office fired Lebese, but he was reinstated by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration which reduced his sanction from dismissal to three months without pay on appeal.

On a different matter in April this year, Mathabatha’s spokesperson Kenny Mathivha was found guilty of misconduct after allegedly defrauding the state by claiming money in vehicle expenses for trips he never undertook with his own car.

On Saturday, Mathivha confirmed that a disciplinary hearing has found his guilty of misconduct in relation to travel expenses. However, he accused Nehawu’s Norman Mavhungu on targeting him for ulterior motives.

“I have been charged and paid R400, because the difference was R400. In any way, the disciplinary hearing was irregular because I did travel on the 9th and I went back to the place on the 10th,”Mathivha said.

“Now, the PFMA [Public Finance Management Act] has got its own pronouncement. Maybe the question is: why Kenny? Why do they target me? They target me because they were sent by [suspended Limpopo government spokesperson] Phuti [Seloba].”

The internal report comes against the backdrop of calls by the ANC Veterans League and the South African Communist Party in Limpopo for Luthuli House to take action against Mathabatha for allegedly appointing the “weakest”, “factional” and “myopic” cabinet in more than 20 years.

Sources at Luthuli House said this week that Mathabatha was summoned by the ANC leadership on Monday to explain his cabinet composition and lack of consultation with party officials.

Sunday Independent