R15.3m Limpopo housing tender fraud uncovered
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Pretoria - The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has found that the R15.3-million tender awarded to Aventino Group CC to build temporary houses in Limpopo was obtained illegally.
The company was meant to build 192 temporary houses in Talana Hostel in Tzaneen and Extension 10 in Groblersdal, Sekhukhune, which was meant to help hostel dwellers who were exposed to threats posed by the Covid-19 pandemic during last year’s level 5 restrictions, as announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The project caused a national uproar after it emerged that the dodgy tin shacks cost taxpayers R64 000 per unit, which was higher than the competitive market rate.
Adding more woes to the project was that the units did not adhere to its original design specifications.
In March this year, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane found that the tin shacks had structural and non-structural defects.
Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha distanced himself from the saga and announced the SIU had been asked to investigate the shack settlement issue that had put him under fire.
Under the terms of proclamation R23 of 2020 the SIU was directed by Ramaphosa to investigate allegations of corruption, malpractice, maladministration and irregularities in the procurement of goods during the Covid-19 state of disaster.
In a statement, SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago yesterday afternoon said the tender given to contractor Aventino Group was fraudulently obtained.
The SIU findings read in part: “The service provider, Aventino Group, made misrepresentations and forged documents of industry experts with no links to the company to influence the direction of the bid.
“The investigation revealed that Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs appointed an implementing agent, the Housing Development Agency, for the establishment of transitional residential areas.
“The entity then appointed a service provider, Aventino, to construct 192 units to the sum of R12.3m. An extension of scope was approved to include the construction of 152 pit toilets and installation of three water tanks (10 000 litres), for an additional fee of R3m, taking the contract value to R15.3m.
“The service provider only managed to construct 40 shacks at Talana Hostel and submitted two invoices totalling over R2.5 million, which were paid between April and October 2020.
“In the Burgersfort Extension 10 site, no structure was completed as there were only half-built ones. In line with SIU Act 74 of 1996, the SIU has referred evidence pointing to criminal action against the director of Aventino, Constance Mohlala, to the National Prosecuting Authority for further action.
“As a result, Mohlala was arrested by the Hawks in December 2020 and she is facing criminal charges for submitting fraudulent documents to influence the direction of a tender.”
Furthermore, the SIU made a recommendation that the service provider be restricted from doing business with the government. The matter has been escalated to the National Treasury for consideration.
The statement read: “To the above-mentioned referrals, the SIU is in the process of instituting civil proceedings in the Special Tribunal to review and set aside the R15.3m contract and recover financial losses suffered by the State.”
Pretoria News can also reveal that six suspects from Aventino have since been arrested by the Hawks regarding the failed project.
The publication could not reach any of the directors associated with the company.
The department had appointed the Housing Development Agency as the implementing agent for the project following it’s assessment of the residential situation in the hostels.
Speaking to the Pretoria News yesterday, MEC Basikopo Makamu referred questions to the office of Premier Stan Mathabatha. He said: “What can I say? It’s the premier that was an implementing agent; the department was never involved in this.”
Housing Development Agency spokesperson Katlego Moselakgomo said: “Let me look at your inquiry as I still have to get advice from our legal team. We will respond to you as soon as I can. I have to depend on other people for answers.”
When called for comment, Mathabatha’s spokesperson, Ndavhe Ramukuela, said: “We are still consulting on the statement; sorry I can't give the exact time we shall conclude it.”