Cape Town: Corrupt individuals can run but cannot hide, the Minister of Public Works Thulas Nxesi warned today, while detailing his department’s ongoing efforts to bring corrupt officials and contractors to book.
Nxesi told media in Parliament today that his department, with the help of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and other agencies, had made good progress in tackling fraud and corruption in the department.
He acknowledged the slow pace of legal processes, particularly as syndicates of corrupt officials were involved in the department who might destroy evidence such as public records and because processes of the law had to be followed.
He said attempts to resolve disciplinary cases were also frustrated when medical certificates were produced by the accused officials’ attorneys, which then postponed hearings.
In an effort to expedite the legal process for disciplinary cases, Nxesi has brought in additional legal resources.
Postponements in respect to medical certificates being produced had already taken place in respect to hearings against two officials.
This includes the disciplinary hearing against former acting director-general Sam Vukela, who was suspended in relation to the lease agreement dispute involving the police and the Roux Property Fund.
The department is awaiting a date from the Registrar of the Court, to argue for the lease agreement involving the police and the Roux Property Fund to be declared invalid.
The disciplinary hearing against Vusi Mashiyane, the director of property management of the Pretoria region, who was served with charges relating to improper lease agreements and a failure to declare private dealings with the successful bidder, had also been postponed after a medical certificate was produced.
Disciplinary hearing against two officials has been completed and criminal investigations have been completed and a case has been registered with the Special Commercial Crimes Unit, said Nxesi.
In one case the accused, a deputy director general at the department, Rachard Samuels, is charged with failure to declare private dealings with service providers and receiving payments of about R170 000 from service providers to pay his children’s university fees.
In another case, two other officials from the department have been charged with having a corrupt relationship with a landlord to whom the department leased properties.
Disciplinary proceedings have been completed against the one official, while the other resigned when disciplinary proceedings started.
Criminal cases of fraud and corruption against two employees and the landlord have meanwhile also been registered.
Nxesi said in light of the poor financial state of the department, which resulted in two qualified
Reports and a disclaimer, he had requested that the chief financial officer (CFO) resign, which she accepted.
He said a high proportion of senior managers are in temporary acting positions, but that the completion of disciplinary processes will allow the department to advertise positions to fill senior posts on a permanent basis.
Meanwhile, all charges against former director-general Siviwe Dongwana were withdrawn, when the reasons for his suspension were found to be frivolous.
Nxesi said the SIU had completed its review of leases in the Johannesburg region and has recommended that the department approach the courts to invalidate the leases and sue for damages and the department is now in the process of filing papers with the High Court.
A case of fraud and fronting against the landlord and other people has meanwhile been referred to the police.
In relation to contracts to renovate houses for new ministers and deputy ministers, the SIU had recommended that disciplinary measures be taken against officials in the department over inflated invoices and failure to report on deviations.
A criminal case of fraud has been lodged with police over the external quantity surveyor.
The department will also be appointing an independent quantity surveyor to verify the exact inflated figure on the invoices paid by the department.
Nxesi said the SIU investigation into the proposed construction of the Skilpadhek Border Post, after a settlement amount of R33 million was irregularly paid to the contractor after the contract didn’t go ahead.
Civil action will be instituted against the contractor for the loss suffered by the department, while a criminal case had been lodged with police in connection with the contractor and an official who was paid R1.25m by the contractor following the cancelling of the contract.
Nxesi said it was difficult to quantify a figure for the amount of fraud as the department was still in the process of conducting an audit on the leases signed by the department.
However he said about a quarter of the department’s R3 billion worth in leases had so far been audited