Free State Premier Sisi Ntombela. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency/ANA
Free State Premier Sisi Ntombela. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency/ANA

Still no action after dodgy firm paid over R255m

By Baldwin Ndaba Time of article published Jun 3, 2020

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Johannesburg - Public Protector advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane will not take action against Free State Premier Sisi Ntombela for now.

This follows accusations that Ntombela allegedly failed to comply with a 60-day deadline to act against senior Free State Human Settlement Department officials who allegedly defrauded more than R255million.

Last month, media reports stated that Mkhwebane had instructed Ntombela to lay criminal charges with the Hawks after the officials irregularly paid out the money to a dodgy Joburg consulting firm.

The tender was for the removal of deadly asbestos roofs from houses, mainly in black communities, in the Free State in 2015.

Mkhwebane published her final report in March following a complaint by the DA’s Leona Kleynhans in October 2015.

In the report also seen by Independent Media, Mkhwebane ruled in favour of the DA in March this year.

She agreed with the DA’s complaint concerning the provincial Human Settlements Department's payment of R255m, through its head of department Nthimotse Mokhetsi, to the firm.

The contract was issued after the government found that 36344 houses still had toxic roofs which posed risks to the inhabitants.

The protector found that the province had paid the consulting firm an advance payment of R100 million.

They also paid several millions to the same company despite its failure to fulfil the contract to rehabilitate the homes.

In July 2015, the officials ignored a finding by the auditor-general that the awarding of the contract was irregular, and paid an additional amount of R139m to the company

.In her ruling, Mkhwebane ordered Ntombela to immediately report the matter to the police and the Hawks for their investigations within 60 days.

She also ordered that Mokhetsi must take disciplinary actions against officials responsible for supply chain management in his unit.

On Tuesday, however, Mkhwebane's spokesperson Oupa Segalwe said she has yet to issue her official report on the investigation into the matter.

“No official report was issued on the matter. What was in the media was a leaked report. It was probably released by one of the parties involved in the case.

“The public protector is expected to reveal her findings on that matter and other investigations later this month,” Segalwe said.

He maintained action against the premier would only be taken if she failed to comply with the new deadline after the report was made public.

Last month, however, Ntombela’s spokesperson Setjhaba Maphalla had confirmed the premier had received the report and was “currently considering it”.

The premier's reaction prompted the DA to urge the Hawks and the Special Investigating Unit to move swiftly to arrest all the culprits and recover the funds which were allegedly paid to the consulting company.

“Of the R255m only R21m was paid to subcontractors who actually did work. Although the DA supports the removal of dangerous asbestos roofs, there appears never to have been any intention to remove and replace the asbestos roofs. The department’s concern for the health hazard to residents of such houses was a cover-up for the awarding of the contract,” Kleynhans said.

Political Bureau

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