North West Public Works and Roads MEC Gaoage Molapisi has been accused of orchestrating a plot to white-wash the R134 million Ndhuna Civil Engineering Service report and clear the contractor and officials at the centre of the alleged tender fraud and corruption.
Sources, including civil servants, engineers and businessmen, said Molapisi’s decision to order an internal probe rather than an independent one was part of a strategy to clear Ndhuna’s Oberon Matsuvuki, head of the department Moss Kgantsi and chief financial officer (CFO) Peter Modika.
Kgantsi and Modika played a key role in the awarding of the multi-million-rand tender to upgrade the Khunotswana road in December last year, even though Ndhuna had previously abandoned projects, allegedly in exchange for R10 million.
The trio agreed at a meeting in Mahikeng in March that Kgantsi and Modika would share the money with Molapisi, according to the sources close to them. It’s unclear whether Molapisi got a share and how much.
Molapisi took many by surprise when he asked Kgantsi to investigate the matter despite the accounting officer and the CFO being implicated in the alleged fraud and corruption. Molapisi gave the department less than a week to hand over a report to him.
“This whole thing is about clearing Kgantsi, the CFO and the contractor. Kgantsi told them that if he goes down, he is not going alone. He is taking everybody down with him. Remember, all of them benefitted from Ndhuna. They are also afraid that if they cancel the contract and charge Matsuvuki, he might spill the beans,” said a source.
Another said Molapisi’s suspicious handling of the Ndhuna saga raised more questions than answers.
“When is the investigation starting? Who is leading it? What is the scope of the investigation? Who in particular is being investigated (e.g. SCM (Supply chain Management) committees also, HOD? Will the scope of that investigation also include grass-cutting contracts? Will this investigation also include probing the Office of the MEC?” asked a government official.
An engineer familiar with the procurement process said the department used the internal panel system to appoint Ndhuna – bypassing normal tender processes – even though it was meant for road maintenance and other emergency contracts.
“What they did was they went to the database of as and when required for maintenance. They are abusing it. That’s how the contractor, Ndhuna, was appointed. That’s how they are now appointing contractors. But it becomes a different story if you advertise because now you are going to get your Murray & Roberts, Stefanutti Stocks and other competent black contractors. Because they have the plants and are not going to hire machinery, they can bid less. So this is the modus operandi. It’s just to make sure their horse comes out on top,” said the engineer.
Sources further said Molapisi and Kgantsi allegedly urged Matsuvuki to do everything to save the contract. They also advised him to hire additional staff and fast-tracking the Khunotswana project in the event National Treasury forced them to cancel it.
Molapisi failed to respond to a list of questions sent on Monday about his alleged plan to white-wash the controversial contract saga, and clear Kgantsi, Modika and Matsuvuki.
He would also not be drawn into answering questions about allegations that he benefitted from the R10 million kickback negotiated by Kgantsi and Modika. Neither would he talk about his alleged relationship with Matsuvuki. Molapisi’s spokesperson, Lerato Gambi, acknowledged receipt of the questions but failed to respond.
This means that so far the following questions remain unanswered:
- When is the investigation starting?
- Who is leading it?
- What is the scope of that investigation?
- Who in particular is being investigated?
- Why is the probe being conducted internally when senior officials like the HOD and the CFO are implicated?
- Is this not tantamount to the MEC asking suspects to investigate themselves?
- Why can’t the MEC allow external investigators to probe the allegations?
- Has the MEC laid criminal charges against the accused given they are fingered in acts of criminality?
- If so, when? Please share the cas no?
- If not, why not?
- Is the MEC trying to shield implicated parties?
- Is the MEC trying to whitewash the process by asking implicated parties to investigate themselves or to oversee investigations into their own conduct?
- What’s the MEC’s response to fears by stakeholders that he is staging a whitewash to protect the accused officials?
14. What’s the relationship between the MEC and Ndhuna MD Oberon Matsuvuki?
15. Has he ever met or spoken to him?
16. What’s the MEC’s response to allegations he also benefited from Matsuvuki’s kickbacks?
17. Why is the MEC not asking law enforcement agencies and or an independent law firm to probe the allegations?
Kgantsi and Modika also refused to give specific questions, citing an internal investigation ordered by Molapisi. This included the procurement process followed in awarding the Ndhuna contract, allegations that they negotiated a R10 million kickback from Matsuvuki and agreed to share it with Molapisi. Instead, they dismissed the questions posed as “serious and wild allegations are perpetually made- without any substance”.
Through Mtshube Mfoloe, the spokesperson of the North West Department of Public Works and Roads, Kgantsi and Modika said they would not entertain any questions about the Ndhuna contract until the investigation was concluded.
“Our stance to refrain from commenting on all media enquiries, should not be interpreted as an act of running away from the issue(s) which has been acknowledged already. We want to give the forensic investigation team time and space to conclude the task speedily. Whatever findings they arrive at will be made public at an appropriate time. But be that as it may, we have indeed followed your articles religiously for the past two weeks, and noted with some reservations however, to some of your follow-up questions arising from your stories published on the subject of Ndhuna Civil Engineering,” said Mfoloe.
Moreover, Kgantsi and Molapisi threatened legal action, alleging that the African Times expose was a “calculated crusade” to portray them and Molapisi as “dishonest and corrupt”.
“The above, regrettably appear to be a calculated crusade to throw in insinuations and project the Head of Department, Moses Kgantsi Chief Financial Officer, Peter Modika and Member of the Executing Authority (MEC) for Public Works and Roads, Oageng Molapisi as dishonest and corrupt. This narrative is put across to us, as “allegations’’ to respond to, even though the source of these allegations, will forever remain unknown to us, if indeed they do (sources) exist.”
Mfoloe said the department comprised men and women of integrity who served no other cause than the public.
“All including the leadership faithfully serve no other cause than that of the public. To this end, be informed too, that persons whom you have alleged to have committed certain acts in your published articles, do have rights and are currently weighing their legal options following allegations published on your media platform,” he added.
Meanwhile, a source within law enforcement said that the Ndhuna tender was among questionable North West contracts under investigation by the SAPS’ commercial crimes unit. The other is the R47 million contract for the refurbishment of the Nelson Mandela Drive in Mahikeng, awarded to Khosi Vuyo Logistics in October last year.
“We are not surprised that there are reports of fraud and corruption involving Ndhuna Civils. We have been investigating the province for some time. We have already requested Section 205, and we can move in anytime,” said a law enforcement source.