Corruption Watch (CW) this week exposed tender irregularities involving respected rural development NGO Mvula Trust, which was allegedly used as a front so that a well-connected company could get some of the spoils.
The findings have been passed on to the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), which was involved in the awarding of the tender, and Corruption Watch has asked for further probing.
Calls for this have been met with resounding silence, and for this seeming lack of accountability and transparency in the face of such damning claims, we make Cogta our zero of the week.
Mvula chairperson Rejoice Mabudafhasi, who is also the deputy minister of water and environmental affairs, on Wednesday described the allegations surrounding the R30-million contract as "misinformation" and "propaganda".
This after a joint Eyewitness News/Daily Maverick investigation, initiated by CW, revealed that a large portion of the project went to a for-profit company, Ubuntu Sima, which is owned by Mvula trustee Gabsie Mathenjwa.
CW spent four months investigating the matter before submitting the report to Cogta. A police investigation is also under way.
According to Mabudafhasi, Mvula’s financial and corporate governance systems have been audited and received a clean bill of health. The audit was done within the timeframe of when the tender was awarded.
Mathenjwa declared a conflict of interest, said the deputy minister, as did three other trustees, arguing that the rumours are the result of those who left the trust amid racial tensions. It appears the trust, as an NGO, was suited to "front" for Ubuntu Sima in order for the company to cash in on the tender. The rules of the tender made it clear that only a non-profit organisation could qualify.
Mvula’s tender was for the creation of 70 000 new jobs as part of a programme led by Cogta and launched in 2011.
CW was given information in 2012 alleging that Mvula sub-contracted parts of the tender to Ubuntu Sima, and our investigation subsequently revealed that the relationship between the two organisations was never disclosed. This is despite Mathenjwa being a director of Ubuntu Sima and trustee for Mvula at the same time.
“At each meeting of the board of trustees and the board of trustees sub-committee meetings, all trustees and members of the Mvula Trust senior management declares their interest,” read Mvula's statement released after the exposé.
“The following trustees disclosed conflicts of interest during the 2011/2012 financial year: Mr Anthony Mitchell (in relation to Jane Mitchell), Ms Gabsie Mathenjwa and Ms Louis Colvin.
“Compliance by all trustees, regional directors, senior managers and all employees to the values of the Mvula Trust is mandatory. No material infractions on the code have been reported during the period under review.”
The statement did not mention the tender in question or answer why the non-profit was sub-contracting work to a for-profit company, which directly conflicted with the rules of the tender.
Daily Maverick’s Alex Eliseev wrote in an editorial on the news site that the government should come out hard against these types of abuses.
Eliseev wrote: “When an organisation like Corruption Watch raises a red flag about a R30-million tender designed to help create jobs, government should slam on the breaks and take a long, hard look under the bonnet. But instead, the revelations have been met with an eerie silence.”
Mabudafhasi has not responded to any questions relating to this matter in her capacity as a senior government official.
IFP spokesperson on co-operative governance and traditional affairs Peter Smith on Thursday told the Daily Sun newspaper that it was “disappointing that people try to cover up by doing nothing”.
Smith has urged Cogta Minister Richard Baloyi to investigate the matter. The same appeal has been made by DA shadow minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs John Steenhuisen.