Limpopo premier ‘ignoring tender fraud’
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Johannesburg - Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha has been accused of ignoring investigations and legal reports that implicate top officials in a R3 million “fraudulent” contract for an event held in Nelson Mandela’s name.
Sources questioned Mathabatha’s decision to reappoint Mabakane Mangena as acting head of the provincial Sport, Arts and Culture Department despite his alleged role in the dubious tender.
Investigation reports by the auditor-general and the provincial department’s internal risk unit blamed Mangena and two other officials in the issuing of an irregular tender.
A subsequent legal opinion by the Premier’s Office said “the contract entered into between the department and Lerato & Moloko Events Management company was tainted by illegality as it was precipitated by a fraudulent practice and/or corruption”.
It has been five months since the Premier’s Office issued that legal report to the provincial department in October.
The legal report recommended that fraud and corruption charges be opened against Mangena and the two implicated officials.
Criminal charges were laid by suspended department head Basani Baloyi, who investigated the tender after she was appointed to the top post by former premier Cassel Mathale in 2012.
Baloyi suspended Mangena as senior manager for communications and slapped him with disciplinary action after the two investigation reports.
But before the disciplinary case ended, Mathabatha, who in July 2013 replaced Mathale, suspended Baloyi in March last year.
Mathabatha cited a relationship breakdown between Baloyi and former MEC Merriam Ramadwa for the suspension.
Baloyi was suspended after she accused Ramadwa of political interference in the standing committee on public accounts hearing.
Under Dora Maraba, who became acting head of department after Baloyi’s suspension, Mangena was given six months’ written warning.
Department spokesman Malesela Ramaoka last Thursday said charges of fraud and corruption could not be proved during the disciplinary hearing.
“The warning was for not informing the auditor-general and the Treasury about the deviation (for not issuing a tender),” Ramaoka said.
He denied claims that the department had cancelled criminal charges against Mangena.
“There is no proof that the department dropped the criminal charges… only the police or the National Prosecuting Authority can decide not to prosecute,” said Ramaoka, who confirmed he was speaking for Mangena too.
Mathabatha reappointed Mangena as acting head of department last year after Maraba left the position.
Mangena chose the Lerato & Moloko Events Management company to host the national Nelson Mandela Day celebration in July 2011 without issuing a tender.
The national Arts and Culture Department promised on June 22, 2011 to transfer R2.1 million to the province if it appointed a service provider to host the event.
Given the tight deadlines, Mangena sought quotations from four companies.
The winning company, Lerato & Moloko Events Management, was not in the department’s database of service suppliers.
Another company that was invited to submit a quotation, even though it was not on the database, was Mamoratwa Enterprise, whose director had links with the winning company, the report said.
“Lerato & Moloko (company) were appointed at an amount of R3 087 093.12, which was R904 93.12 more than the committed budget of R2 183 000 by the national department.
Despite Lerato & Moloko being paid this quoted amount, it is still claiming an additional R2 776 705.91 from the national and provincial departments for additional services,” the legal report said.
Bid allegations examined
Premier Stan Mathabatha’s spokesman, Kenny Mathivha, has said the premier’s anti-corruption resolve remained intact.
He said the premier was still studying the legal report.
“I don’t think this is the end of it all; the legal opinion is being looked into,” Mathivha said.
Mangena was reappointed acting head of the department after the disciplinary panel gave him six months’ warning, he added. “By the time the legal opinion came out, he had already been cleared by the disciplinary panel and given six months’ suspension,” Mathivha said.
Department spokesman Malesela Ramaoka said it was impossible to issue a tender due to tight deadlines. “Companies on the database did not have the requisite capacity to host an event of such magnitude on short notice,” Ramaoka said.
He defended the awarding of the contract to Lerato & Moloko Events Management company.
“Based on the documents we have, there is no conclusive proof that fraud, corruption or collusion happened in this transaction,” Ramaoka added.
Lerato & Moloko Events Management director Lerato Machaba would not comment as the matter was before the court.
DA MPL Katlego Phala saidthe premier should take decisive action if he were serious about fighting corruption.