Johannesburg - Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has been subpoenaed to answer why his department allowed an unpaid R67 million invoice owed to an information technology (IT) company undergoing liquidation to balloon to almost R800m.
According to investigators in the liquidation process, the amount owed to IT company Double Ring Trading shot up when the dispute with the Department of Home Affairs began in 2009, to the current R794m, which liquidators are gunning for.
Lorenzo Pavoncelli, one of the investigators appointed by liquidators SAF Trust to oversee the winding up of Double Ring Trading, asserted that they wanted the R794m, which they said could be forked out by taxpayers.
Subpoenas were issued by the South Gauteng High Court this week for Gigaba to appear before a court-appointed presiding officer later this month and provide documents about the government's alleged complicity in the non-payment of the bill, which resulted in the loss of 150 jobs when the IT company was forced to shut down.
According to the subpoenas, Gigaba faces prison detention if he does not avail himself before the court-appointed presiding officer.
Double Ring Trading was tasked by the Department of Home Affairs from 2005 to, among other things, supply and install an information and communication technology (ICT) hub at the department's premises in Tshwane.
This is according to a sworn affidavit by Moeketsi Nonyana, the former Home Affairs manager who was tasked with overseeing the ICT project.
Nonyana said under oath that Double Ring Trading had complied fully with its contractual obligations, which is contrary to the contention made by the Department of Home Affairs in court documents that the hub was never installed.
Home Affairs spokesperson Thabo Mokgola acknowledged on Thursday that subpoenas were delivered to Gigaba this week, as well as to Karabo Mogotsi, director of legal services, and acting director-general Thulani Mavuso.
Mokgola added: “We are not going to comment further about this because the matter is before the courts.”
“When we inherited this matter in 2016, we agreed with Home Affairs that we would settle the matter for R250m - they turned us away.
"We then said we would settle the matter for R300m at the end of 2016 - they tuned us away," Pavoncelli said.
“Now, we must go ahead and press with the R794m - and we want it,” Pavoncelli said.
“On the facts as they stand at present, duly supported by the documentation which we have located, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that, at some point, the court is going to order Home Affairs to pay.
“Had this matter been dealt with in 2009 - honestly, transparently and properly - the South African taxpayer would have been billed for only R67m.
“Taxpayers are now in for 10 times that amount because of rubbish defences,” Pavoncelli said.
He said the ballooning of the amount related to the contractual agreement between the Department of Home Affairs and Double Ring Trading, which stated that outstanding amounts attracted interest at a rate of 5% plus prime, and that the charges are dollar-based.
Johan du Plessis confirmed that he is one of the liquidators overseeing the daily operations of Double Ring Trading and that he speaks on the company’s behalf. Du Plessis said they had appointed the investigators after Double Ring had gone into voluntary liquidation in 2016. He declined to comment further.