The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the Public Protector’s recommendations regarding an illegal contract for the identification of asbestos roofed houses in the Free State province. Following the DA’s submissions to Public Protector for an investigation into the matter back in 2015, the Public Protector’s report confirmed our long-held belief that the contract was conceived and implemented with the express purpose of extracting funds from the Department of Human Settlements in the Free State. While once again officials are correctly taking the fall for the irregular and illegal activities, the DA is of the opinion that politicians in the Free State must have been complicit in this.
An amount of R255 million was paid to Blackhead Consulting (Pty) Ltd/Diamond Hill Trading joint venture, for the identification of asbestos roofed houses in the Free State, of which 36 344 was eventually found to have asbestos roofs. Of the R255 million paid by the provincial Department, only R21 million was paid to sub-contractors who actually did work.
Although the DA supports the removal of dangerous asbestos roofs, there appears never to have been any intention to remove and replace the asbestos roofs. The Department’s concern for the health hazard to residents of such houses was a cover-up for the awarding of the contract. Very few, if any at all, asbestos roofs have been replaced in the Free State.
The Public Protector’s report finds that the unsolicited proposal received by the Department amounted to improper conduct and maladministration. The report is littered with damning findings on the conduct of the head of the Department, Mr. Mokhesi, who is found to be willfully dishonest and grossly negligent and failed to execute his fiduciary duties which amount to improper conduct and maladministration.
Mr. Mokhesi in his response to the Public Protector said that if he had known that the contract was irregular, he would have stopped it. However, the DA lodged an unsuccessful court application in June 2015 requesting the court to issue an urgent interdict to stop payment on the irregular contract and the Free State Auditor-General’s Office declared the procurement as irregular in July 2015.
After both the court case and the Auditor General’s finding the Department of Human Settlements, under the supervision of Mr. Mokhesi, continued to pay the remaining R139 million to Blackhead/Diamond Hill.
Both the MEC responsible for this Department at the time, Olly Mlamleli, who attended the DA’s publicised court proceedings and the former Premier, Ace Magashule, whose office is responsible for approving and drafting contracts and litigation must have been aware that something was amiss.
Therefore it is very clear that not only is the Accounting Officer of the Department of Human Settlements seemingly guilty of maladministration and gross negligence, but also that the former MEC and current Mangaung Mayor, Olly Mlamleli and the former Premier, Ace Magashule, should equally be held accountable in this matter.
The DA welcomes the recommendation that a criminal investigation be instituted against Mr. Mokhesi and that the conduct of the Director of Supply Chain and the Chief Financial Officer should also be investigated. Due to the advanced stage of SIU and Hawks investigations, the DA is hopeful that arrests will follow soon and others who may be involved will also be held accountable. The DA will follow up to ensure that all remedial actions recommended by the Public Protector are carried out and lodge our own complaint with the Hawks for investigation.