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Bloemfontein - The Democratic Alliance has welcomed the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) probe into the controversial Free State "asbestos contract".

This investigation, signed off by President Cyril Ramaphosa, would hopefully get to the bottom of the awarding of the contract and the "flow of R250 million into the coffers of ANC politicians and cronies", DA Free State MPL Leona Kleynhans said on Saturday.

The DA in the Free State went to court in July 2015 in an attempt to stop payments in terms of the contract, which was clearly irregular. The court deemed the matter not urgent, opening the way for the payments to continue, she said.

The DA then took the matter to the public protector in October 2015. Earlier this year the public protector’s office informed the complainant, Kleynhans, that there were serious irregularities uncovered in the award of the contract, that criminal charges could be considered, and that the report would be released by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane after finalisation. This report had not yet been released by the office of the public protector, Kleynhans said.

The contract was awarded by the Free State human settlements department to Blackhead Consulting/Diamond Hill JV for the "identification of asbestos roofed houses in the Free State", she said.

"The contract would piggy-back on a contract awarded earlier to Blackhead Consulting in Gauteng. The contract value for ‘Phase 1’ was set at R250 million. Blackhead/Diamond Hill delivered a doubtful report to the department in which it had supposedly ‘identified’ 33,000 asbestos roofed houses in the province.

"Upon receiving detailed information on the contract in 2015, the DA immediately concluded that the contract was conceived and executed to defraud the department and that payments to the contractors were irregular. At that stage R100 million had already been paid out. Subsequent to the court case, the remaining R150 million was paid out," Kleynhans said.

The DA was relieved that at last this entire contract and payments would be properly investigated and that those who benefited would be held accountable for the money robbed from the people of the Free State.

"In his book ‘Gangster State’, journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh details the payment trail and the characters involved in this sordid saga. It is indeed a tragedy that, once again, the needy people of the Free State were used as a cover for looting," Kleynhans said.

African News Agency (ANA)