A construction company under investigation for tender fraud and corruption in the North West has scored a R8 million contract in Limpopo.
Roads Agency Limpopo (RAL), a provincial parastatal, awarded Ndhuna Civil Engineering Services the multi-million contract to re-gravel the road between Ga-Mokgwathi and Dzumeri in Mopani in May this year.
The contractor abandoned multimillion projects in Rustenburg and Zeerust in 2021.
Ndhuna is under investigation by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), parliamentary committees in the North West Legislature and forensic investigators for alleged tender irregularities, fraud and corruption.
According to an appointment letter seen by African Times, RAL awarded the controversial company a contract to “render road infrastructure construction services for the re-gravelling of road D3187 in the Mopani District of Limpopo province”.
Limpopo Public Works, Roads and Infrastructure Nkakareng Rakgoale announced during her 2023/2024 budget speech in April this year that “RAL will be collaborating with the Department in order to fast track re-gravelling of roads in the five districts of the province”, including the Ga-Mokgwathi-Dzumeri road.
As was the case in North West, sources said, the agency handpicked Ndhuna from a list of pre-approved service providers, known as a panel of contractors, which was notoriously abused in that province to award the company a R134 million tender in exchange for bribes.
“Roads Agency Limpopo (SOC) Ltd (RAL) hereby offers Ndhuna Civils Engineering Services an appointment to render road infrastructure construction services for the re-gravelling of road D3187 in the Mopani District of Limpopo province.”
“We confirm that the total price for the service to be rendered is an amount of R8 000 000.00 VAT inc as agreed upon between yourselves, Project Engineer and Roads Agency Limpopo as per the Bill of Quantities (BoQs) submitted by yourselves. The price is inclusive of VAT, CPA and contingencies,” said the RAL appointment letter.
Three sources said the agency appointed Ndhuna after its officials met Oberon Matsuvuki, the company’s director, at his house in Midrand in December last year, where he allegedly offered them kickbacks.
The meeting was set up by a contractor close to Matsuvuki, who stays in the same complex and is currently doing business with RAL.
Matsuvuki denied being awarded a tender by RAL, saying, “I am not doing any business with RAL”.
He also denied meeting RAL officials at his house.
However, RAL confirmed that it awarded Ndhuna the R8 million tender but claimed Matsuvuki did not accept the job.
Maropeng Manyathela, the agency’s Head of Communications, insisted that Ndhuna “is not and has never done paid work for RAL”.
“Ndhuna Civil Engineering Services is on the RAL panel of contractors. The company never accepted an appointment from RAL for a re-gravelling project to the value of 8 million in July 2023.”
“Since Ndhuna Civil Engineering Services never accepted the appointment from RAL, the company was therefore replaced with another company which is equally on the panel of contractors. In other words, Ndhuna Civil Engineering Services never took site or started doing work for RAL,” Manyathela said.
The North West Department of Public Works and Roads blacklisted the company in 2021 when it abandoned projects after pocketing millions of rand.
President Cyril Ramaphosa signed a proclamation authorizing the SIU to probe tender fraud and corruption after whistleblowers complained about Ndhuna.
Manyathela defended RAL’s decision to award the contract to Ndhuna despite its track record, saying the agency did “due diligence” before appointing Matsuvuki.
“Before contractors are appointed into the panel, due diligence is conducted through CSD, CIDB and other government systems such as Treasury and SARS. (if the company is appointed from the panel for specific paid work). There are currently no discovered restrictions on all available government systems, such CSD, CIDB, etc, that barred RAL from appointing Ndhuna, who fairly qualified for the panel,” he said.
Manyathela said RAL would not review its decision to award the tender even though Ndhuna is under investigation by law enforcement agencies because the company “was replaced after they did not accept the appointment for the re-gravelling job”.
He claimed RAL replaced Ndhuna with a new company, Bics Engineering and Supply, but refused to share proof in the form of an appointment letter. This was because Bics is not tax compliant, Manyathela said, and has been given seven days to sort out its tax issues.
“We have indeed appointed another company. This company has been given time, in accordance with the SARS laws, to fix their tax-related matters. I can’t share the appointment letter until the process is concluded and there is an acceptance from the company. I can, however, share with you proof that we have communicated with them and are awaiting the appointed company to fix their non-compliance with tax matters,” added Manyathela.
Asked why would any service provider go through the trouble of tendering only to decline the job, Manyathela said he had no idea because Ndhuna did not respond to the appointment offer.
Moreover, he denied that RAL officials met Matsuvuki at his home in Midrand a few months before he got the tender.
“No official or employee of RAL has met Ndhuna before the company was appointed into the panel, and for the job referred, the company did not accept,” he maintained.
The 10-kilometre road stretches across the villages of Ga-Mokgwathi, Lekgwareng and Daniel within the Greater Tzaneen and Greater Letaba municipalities.
Locals who use the road regularly described it as terrible and said it damaged their vehicles. Taxi drivers said the road was last gravelled before the Easter holidays in April.
Kholofelo Morwatshehla, 43, a taxi owner and driver operating between Ga-Mokgwathi and Giyani, said the road was terrible.
“It’s full of rocks and holes all the way from Ga-Mokgwathi to Dzumeri. When it rains, the holes are filled with water, and it damages our Quantums because the air filter is underneath. There is a big hole on the road next to Mashooro [High School], another one after the mountain before Lekgwareng, and another big hole at Ga-Daniel,” Morwatshehla said.
“They last fixed it before Good Friday. But last week, I saw some men in Lekgwareng with microscopes. I don’t know what was happening.”
Another taxi driver, Maile Mabulana, 42, said: “There is no road here. From Dzumeri, where the road ends, the road is unusable. As you pass Ga-Daniel, next to a big Marula tree, that whole area gets flooded when it rains, and cars can’t pass. It’s the same thing at Lekgwareng and Ga-Mokgwathi.”