Hawks step up probe of Nelson Mandela Bay’s PPE spending

Hawks step up probe of metro’s PPE spending.
Hawks step up probe of metro’s PPE spending.
Image: MACAU PHOTO AGENCY ON UNSPLASH

While the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) probes every cent spent on personal protective equipment by the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality, the Hawks have set their sights on seven companies that supplied Covid-19-related items.

The investigation into the PPE spending picked up speed on Friday, with laptops and other devices used by several officials confiscated by the SIU.

This follows a meeting between Hawks investigators and then acting city manager Mvuleni Mapu and chief financial officer Selwyn Thys in August about the fraud probe into the city’s supply chain management process.

The investigation comes after DA Eastern Cape leader Nqaba Bhanga opened a case at the Humewood police station on July 25.

The case was picked up by the Hawks shortly after Bhanga left the station, with investigators spending last week in the city.

They were joined later by the SIU officials, who started their investigation on August 5.

SIU chief forensic lawyer Dimo Mkiva wrote to acting city manager Anele Qaba on September 2 requesting specific documentation.

This ranged from receipts for PPE received to minutes of meetings and financial statements linked to Covid-19 spending from March 1 to July 23.

Qaba was given until Friday to produce all the paperwork.

“For the SIU to properly investigate, it requires the documents which relate to the Covid-19 procurement contracts by the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality,” Mkiva said.

He requested the identity and employee numbers of seven officials who formed part of the supply chain management process.

“We accordingly request that the required documentation be made available to the SIU.”

Qaba, asked about the confiscation of devices, said: “The municipality is co-operating with the relevant law-enforcement agencies.

“This is an investigation matter and I am, therefore, not able to comment at this stage.”

SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said previously the investigation included all Covid-19-related purchases.

Bhanga’s complaint was based on information from a June 30 report on the city’s approved procurement for Covid-19 spending.

It showed a majority of the personal protective equipment was bought at a higher price than the guidelines issued in a circular by the National Treasury.

Hawks investigator Warrant Officer Andile Ketshese e-mailed Thys on August 20, requesting information related to seven specific companies.

He asked for quotations received from the companies, delivery notes, payment invoices and service level agreements and appointment letters.

“Our meeting at your office bears as a reference ... this office is currently conducting an investigation on the matter mentioned as discussed with you.

“Your urgent assistance will be highly appreciated in advance as you prepare the documentation for the Hawks.”

The companies named are Heico Projects, Platinum Suppliers, Kaziforce, Mtawelanga and M & S Traffic.

Two other companies are not being named yet as The Herald was unable to track down the directors.

Hawks spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Philani Nkwalase said the investigation was ongoing.

“A statement will be issued once we make a successful arrest,” he said.

Platinum Suppliers, which has Shereez Brass listed as the sole director, was approved for an amount of R4m to supply antibacterial soap, infrared forehead thermometers and hand-sanitiser to the municipality, according to the June 30 report.

She charged the municipality R835,000 for 43,000 face masks, with one costing R16,80, according to the list.

While the list shows she charged R16.80 a mask, the cost actually works out to R19.40 each according to the total amount she was paid for the masks.

This could be related to VAT as the difference equates to a 15% increase.

In total, her company was paid R5.9m.

Shereez said the Hawks had not contacted her and declined to comment further

Heico Project Management, owned by Raynard Brass, charged about R6m to supply torches, splash suits, latex gloves, antibacterial soap, leather gloves, knapsacks, face masks, and hand-sanitiser.

The amounts broken down were R936,000 for 48,000 face masks, a cost of R19.50 each.

Raynard also charged the municipality R47,200 for 1,800 pairs of leather gloves, which do not appear on the Treasury procurement list.

Overall, his company was paid R9.5m by the municipality, according to the June 30 report.

The couple’s companies share the same business address in Cape Road, according to a Companies and Intellectual Property Commission search.

He also declined to comment.

Kaziforce, which is owned by Mamella Maqula — the sister of Bay Ward 19 ANC councillor Gamalihleli Maqula — was awarded a tender to deliver four batches of face masks to the municipality.

Maqula, who previously declined to comment and could not be reached, supplied 34,400 face masks for R670,800, which equates to R19.50 a mask or R167,700 a batch.

Based on this, she received R351,568 more than she should have if the Treasury guidelines were followed.

Mtawelanga was paid R8m to supply face masks and empty spray bottles, according to the June 30 report.

Moeketsi Ntsike, a director of the company, said the Hawks had not approached him regarding the investigation.

I have no worries. Why must I be alarmed?

Asked about the investigation, he said: “I have no worries. Why must I be alarmed?”

M & S Traffic, of which Sibuyile Magingxa is a director, received contracts worth R1.1m to supply thermal scans and 3-ply surgical masks.

“I have not been contacted by the Hawks. We run a well-established entity that is 100% black- and youth-owned,” he said.

The details of the owners of the other two companies could not be traced through the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission as hundreds of companies exist with the same names.

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