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Water and sanitation department probes alleged dodgy deals worth billions

07 May 2020 - 20:17 By MPUMZI ZUZILE
Human settlements, sanitation and water minister Lindiwe Sisulu. File photo.
Human settlements, sanitation and water minister Lindiwe Sisulu. File photo.
Image: Trevor Samson

The water and sanitation department is investigating contracts worth billions of rand that were allegedly awarded irregularly.

On Tuesday, human settlements, sanitation and water minister Lindiwe Sisulu received a copy of an investigation report, which highlights the rot in her department.

“We faced huge financial mismanagement in the water sector, with the result that many of our top officials at national and municipal levels are under investigation. All current investigations will be fast-tracked and ensure there will be follow-through consequences. If needed we will also call in forensic investigators to assist us,” Sisulu said.

In a statement, Sisulu said she appointed a team of eminent people — assisted by Treasury-approved investigators — to probe allegations of maladministration at the water and sanitation department.

She said the first phase of investigations has been concluded.

“There were 48 cases of serious misconduct within the department. Of these, six were prioritised. The six consist of two deputy director generals and two chief directors. In one case, a senior official was allegedly involved in awarding irregular contracts to the value of R7bn,” Sisulu said.

She says that in total, R16.5bn in irregular expenditure was involved.

“The department lost R1.7bn on fruitless and wasteful expenditure,” she said.

Another 180 less serious cases are also being handled internally within the department and will be concluded within weeks.

“Some of the cases have been delayed due to the current Covid-19 lockdown, which started over a month ago,” she said.

She said, in addition, there were ongoing investigations related to irregular expenditure, mismanagement and governance issues at the Amatola Water Board in the Eastern Cape, as well as Lepelle Northern Water Board in Limpopo.

She said Amatola's Vuyo Zitumane and Lepelle's Phineas Legodi were currently on precautionary suspension to allow the investigations to continue.

“The investigations are aimed at ensuring that the department, and the entities under the ministry’s jurisdiction, deliver on the services to the people of SA. We have received the reports of the forensic investigations and are preparing to hand these over to the law enforcement agencies,” she said.

Sisulu said apart from the outcomes of the forensic reports, other charges are also being formulated in terms of the Public Service Regulations in line with the forensic reports, against the two CEOs.

Sisulu will report on the cases to the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) at the earliest opportunity.

This week, Zitumane and Legodi submitted explosive affidavits detailing alleged interference in their respective supply chain management processes.

Zitumane, a former chair of the Eastern Cape Parks & Tourism Board and a senior manager at the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality, claims she has been “harassed and extorted” so that Sisulu's adviser, Mphumzi Mdekazi, can “advance (his) corrupt interests” in a multimillion-rand sand abstraction project.

Likewise, Legodi describes Mdekazi as coming across as a “highly influential figure in the ministry”.

This week, Mdekazi said the matter was with his lawyers and he could not comment.

Both Zitumane and Legodi are now the subject of investigations sanctioned by Sisulu. They believe they are being targeted for their refusal to break supply chain regulations despite pressure from the minister and her advisers.

The probe into Amatola Water includes an investigation into the financial affairs of the state-owned entity and lifestyle audits of all executives, including the previous board.

In her affidavit, dated April 23 and submitted to the police's East London commercial crimes unit, Zitumane describes talks she had with Mdekazi in August.

She has opened a case against Mdekazi in terms of the Prevention & Combating of Corrupt Activities Act.

She alleges that Mdekazi told her the Eastern Cape should support Sisulu as the next presidential candidate “as he failed the last time and such campaign has put him into serious debt”.

Sisulu ran for ANC president in 2017.