Picture: Steve Buissinne/Pixabay
Picture: Steve Buissinne/Pixabay

Criminal charges laid against Amatola Water Board CEO over inflated tenders

By Ayanda Mdluli Time of article published Jun 2, 2020

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The Eastern Cape-based Amatola Water Board has revealed that it has laid criminal charges against its suspended CEO, Vuyo Zitumane, who was found by an independent investigation to have been involved in the manipulation of supply chain management processes and the awarding of tenders at inflated prices. The report on the investigation has also implicated controversial KZN-based Xmoor Transport.

Zitumane, who, in an earlier interview last week revealed that she was misled by Xmoor when the company failed to provide services and had its contract cancelled with Amatola, was placed on cautionary suspension following the commissioning of an investigation by the Minister of Human Settlements, Water Affairs and Sanitation, Lindiwe Sisulu earlier this year. 

A leaked letter seen by Independent Media from Amatola administrator, Maxwell Sirenya, addressed to Sisulu states:

“Following the investigation conducted by Open Water Advanced Risk Solutions at your behest into the affairs of Amatola Water, which concluded that certain acts committed by the CE (chief executive) of Amatola Water Ms, Zitumane, are of a criminal nature, it has become necessary for me as an accounting authority to sanction the laying of criminal charges against her with the South African Police Service. I wish to confirm that these charges have been laid with the SAPS.”

In the letter, Sirenya further states that the charges were laid in terms of chapter 7.2.1 of the Public Finance Management Act, 1999, Draft Treasury Regulations, 2012.

“This process will enable the specialised units of the SAPS, e.g Commercial Crime and investigators to delve deeper than Open Water into the alleged transgressions by the CE of Amatola Water and other officials,” read the letter.

Speaking to Independent Media, Sirenya confirmed the content and authenticity of the letter, stating: “Yes, I can confirm that criminal charges have been laid with the SAPS. At this stage, it’s the CEO who will be facing criminal charges. If there will be other charges at a later stage we will start from there. I am not ruling out any possibility that charges will be laid against Xmoor and a number of people in the department and other state-owned entities,” he said.

The investigation, concluded by Open Water Advanced Risk Solutions, found that Zitumane is alleged to have presided over an organisation that manipulated supply chain management processes and awarded tenders at inflated prices.

Open Water was appointed by Sisulu to probe allegations of misappropriation of R230 million in drought relief funds by the Amatola Water Board.

It investigated the alleged procurement irregularities at Amatola Water and the alleged abuse of millions set aside for projects to harvest rainwater, utilisation of water tankers and the drilling of boreholes, among others.

Last week, it was revealed in a Sunday Tribune exposé that KZN-based transport firm Xmoor was one of the companies implicated in the investigation report.

In the report, investigators claim that Xmoor inflated their prices by more than 200 percent. Open Water, in documents, said they obtained a comparative quotation from Roto Tank (Pty) Ltd (Roto) to determine the current market price for a 5 000-litre tank. 

According to Roto, the market price for one tank is R3 884 as opposed to the price of R7 090 charged by Xmoor, therefore being R3 206 more than the current market price per tank and R1.6m for 500 tanks. 

Further information revealed that although the tender specifications provided for a JoJo eco stand, investigators were informed that Xmoor insisted on providing 1m metal stands at a rate of R7 300.

“We obtained a comparative quotation from JoJo tanks to determine the current market price. The price of an eco stand is currently R1 275 per stand, and therefore, the price submitted by Xmoor exceeds the market price by R6 025 per stand charged and R3m for 500 units,” said investigators.

Xmoor was found to be unable to provide the required stands, which resulted in Amatola Water cancelling its order.

Zitumane, responding to the allegations, told Independent Media that she had not seen the Open Water report. She also refuted all the allegations that had been levelled against her, arguing that they would not hold water in court.

“I have not seen the report. Any person who is under investigation is supposed to be given an opportunity to respond. I have never been corrupt in my life. I have not been involved in the manipulation of tender prices. I have a very competent supply chain manager who has never accepted anything outside of the ordinary. It is mischievous to even hear about charges from the media when I did not have an opportunity to respond to the allegations levelled against me,” she said.

Keshia Patchiappen, a spokesperson representing Xmoor, said her client has no knowledge of any alleged legal charges against Zitumane and could not comment on the matter. 

“My client denies any suggestion of untoward business practices and welcomes any investigation into alleged cases of corruption. We adhere to stringent anti-corruption policies and throughout its 46 years of operation, they have always conducted itself in an ethical manner, delivering essential services to the people of South Africa,” she said. 

Sunday Tribune

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