Africa Image Live


Grab the widget  Tech Dreams

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

South Africa: Firm 'steals' R58m for RDP project

By Baldwin Ndaba and Louise Flanagan

The Gauteng provincial government has taken no action against a construction company that received a R58-million housing tender but failed to build a single house - and wrongly claims it might soon run out of time to do this.

It is now more than two years since the then Gauteng premier, Mbhazima Shilowa, pledged to take legal action against Bahlodi Construction Consortium and to recover the money.

Shilowa, who has since quit the ANC and joined COPE as its deputy leader, made the pledge to the affected community on March 12, 2007 during a National Council of Provinces imbizo in Sebokeng.

He also blacklisted the consortium from getting further Gauteng business.

The imbizo was also attended by Premier Nomvula Mokonyane, who was then Gauteng's MEC for housing.

Bahlodi was awarded the tender in 2004 to renew the urban area of Evaton, south of Joburg, where about 90 percent of the population earn less than R3 500 a month.

RDP houses were to be built, with water and sanitation for the township's 200 000 residents, along with new roads and pavements.

Bahlodi's directors were disgraced former first division soccer club owner Azziz Kara, lawyer Mncedisi Richard Ndlovu and Loretta Gail King.

"Legal action was taken on that matter and it is now subject to judicial processes," Mokonyane's spokesman Simon Zwane said on Wednesday.

The Star was on Tuesday unable to contact the consortium or its directors.

Bahlodi, Ndlovu and King had offices in a government building in Pritchard Street in the Joburg CBD, along with a section of the Housing Department, legislature staff and the Public Service Commission.

King still has an office in the same building, running a different business, but it was deserted on Wednesday.

Businesses involving King and Ndlovu still appear on lists of technical resource groups which do business with the Gauteng government.

Local Government and Housing MEC Kgaogelo Lekgoro has now admitted that his department has not recovered a single cent from Bahlodi.

Lekgoro also said the department would be ready to proceed with legal action against the consortium only on September 30, just two months before he said it would be too late to make the claim legally.

Lekgoro's comments were in a written reply to a question in the legislature from DA MPL Jack Bloom on the progress of the investigation into the recovery of the R58m paid to Bahlodi.

"The department has cancelled its contractual obligations with Bahlodi Construction Consortium, appointed a legal team to deal with all the legalities pertaining to anticipated litigation on the matter, and is in the process of conducting a forensic audit," said Lekgoro.

He said the department had commissioned a legal audit on the Evaton project in 2006.

Asked how much money had been recovered, Lekgoro replied: "None."

He said the department's forensic investigations would be completed by August 31 and a claim was likely to be lodged by September 30.

"The claim takes three years to prescribe. In this instance it will prescribe at the end of November 2009," said Lekgoro.

When asked what action had been taken against Housing Department officials over the matter, Lekgoro said none had been identified, so "no disciplinary action has been taken against any official in the department".

But there would be nothing stopping the province from bringing criminal charges of fraud and getting its money back through the Asset Forfeiture Unit.

On Wednesday, National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga told The Star thatfraud charges prescribed after only 20 years, but there was no time limit set for asset forfeiture.

Bloom criticised Mokonyane for preaching against corruption as premier but doing little about this matter while she was the responsible MEC.

"How can it be that not a single housing official has been disciplined for allowing Bahlodi to do virtually nothing it was paid to do in the Evaton Urban Renewal Project?" he asked.

"Were they all fast asleep, or did they deliberately collude with this company that has so far got away with millions of rands that should have benefited the poor?"

He said the action was "inexcusably slow" and he wasn't convinced the department would sue Bahlodi in time.

No comments:

AllAfrica News: Latest

Pambazuka News :Comment & analysis