Tuesday 23 July 2019
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iol - 26 days ago

Why eThekwini said it renewed ‘crooked’ firms’ DSW contracts

Durban - ETHEKWINI Municipality has renewed the contracts of four companies whose directors have been arrested on allegations of fraud and corruption. The directors were arrested in April in connection with the R208million Durban Solid Waste tender, along with three other service providers, two senior city managers and mayor Zandile Gumede. The charges against them include tender rigging, fraud, corruption, racketeering and money laundering. During the executive committee (Exco) meeting at the city hall on Tuesday, members were at pains to justify to the opposition parties the manner in which the contracts were renewed, with the city’s chief financial officer, Krish Kumar, indicating that the time factor should be considered. A monthly report on awards made by the city for May 2019, tabled at the meeting, indicates that Ikusasalethu Mthalane Trading, Ilanga Lamahlase Projects, Elshaddai Holding Group and Uzuzinikela Trading 31 CC’s contracts were renewed. It is unclear what the companies were contracted to do, and the report merely states “emergency appointment”, where a description is called for. An exception was Ikusasalethu, with the report stating it was rehabilitating tennis courts and fencing in Verulam. The Daily News understands that Uzuzinikela is the main contractor responsible for refuse removal in uMlazi, a township south of Durban. The opposition parties would have none of the report, indicating that the move to renew the companies’ contracts was informed by corrupt intentions. Kumar explained that the decision to renew the contracts was taken on March 25 by the Bid Adjudication Committee and that the arrests were made in April. The DA questioned how the contracts could have been extended despite the full knowledge that the four companies were implicated in fraudulent activities in the city. Caucus leader Nicole Graham said the party was concerned that the city had decided to extend the refuse collection contracts of the four main DSW contractors. “All four contractors were arrested alongside eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede and councillor Mondli Mthembu, and the charges against them are associated with the same contract that has since been renewed. “The national government and institutions, that protect and support democracy, have to intervene in the unabated looting and chaos that has engulfed the city,” she said. Graham said the extension, as opposed to the cancellation, of the contracts showed a lack of political will to root out fraud and corruption in the city. IFP councillor Mdu Nkosi said the contracts could have been renewed once the contractors were proven innocent in court. uMlazi ward 81 committee member Jabu Mchunu said it made no sense for the city to renew the contracts of the same companies implicated in wrongdoing. She said subcontractors had downed tools because of non-payment for their services. “It was the same big companies that were the culprits in the mess in our township. Refuse is still ever it has not been collected for weeks and you give the same companies money? What’s the logic behind this? One can only conclude that certain individuals get a share from these contractors if they remain in the municipal employ,” Mchunu said. She said the city should give the contracts to people who live in the area, as they were the ones affected by the filth on their streets. The office of the auditor-general said it could not comment on the matter without facts. Africa Boso, senior general manager in media relations, said it comments on issues that have been audited, and invited the Daily News to email details of the matter for scrutiny. A source with knowledge of legal issues in municipalities said eThekwini had no grounds to reverse the contracts, as the individuals were innocent until proven guilty. The source said the municipality could have been sued if it had failed to honour the contracts, because the arrests were effected after the decision to renew was already taken. The Co-operative Governance Department did not respond to a request for comment on the matter. Daily News

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