Zwane pushes accountability onto official for millions wasted on Free State housing project
Johannesburg – Former Free State human settlements MEC Mosebenzi Zwane says he cannot be held responsible for unlawful decisions, testifying the head of the department (HOD) should take the fall for mismanagement and poor financial decisions.
Zwane took the stand at the Zondo commission on Friday. His testimony is linked to a R1 billion Free State housing project which saw millions of rand being wasted in illegal prepayments to contractors and suppliers for work not delivered.
Witnesses, consisting of former officials from the department of human settlements, testified it was Zwane's idea to conceive a scheme to appoint 106 contractors to build 14 000 houses in 2010. The witnesses said Zwane pushed for certain contractors to be appointed and for prepayments to be made which fell outside of procurement processes.
On Friday, when faced with questions on the illegalities that took place regarding the appointment of contractors, Zwane shifted the blame to his then head of department, Mpho Mokoena.
The R1bn housing project was intended to be conducted through an open tender bid process, but this was abandoned and a decision was taken to appoint contractors using a database system.
Zwane said he was told by his subordinates that abandoning the bid process was legal. He said he did not doubt the paperwork presented to him.
He admitted he did not seek legal advice outside the department to research whether abandoning the bidding process was legal.
"I took it in good spirit that I was being advised by the right people," Zwane said.
When asked if he did not believe he had a mandate to take accountability for illegal decisions taken under his leadership, Zwane said this was not the case.
"It is his (HOD) duty to ensure that illegalities do not happen," Zwane said.
The former minister testified he as a MEC would only be held responsible for mishaps he knowingly hid.
"If the MEC knowingly allowed the illegality took place, the MEC would be held accountable by the premier," he said.
Zwane said the matter of abandoning the bidding process was taken to exco, which is the provincial cabinet presided over by the premier, and it never raised issues with the proposal.