Investigations now under investigation - what's next?
Suspicions raised about former top cop's R6,2m tender from Eastern Cape premier's office
A tender to a controversial former top cop to investigate government contracts in the Eastern Cape has itself now come under scrutiny.
Former Gauteng provincial police commissioner Mzwandile Petros’ iFirm was awarded the contract for an independent forensic audit from the Eastern Cape premier’s office at a cost of R6,2-million. It had to probe tenders awarded by a number of government departments.
The company offers specialised services like forensic investigations, business intelligence and business advisories.iFirm’s contract has however caused controversy, with allegations that an intern had signed off on the payment, that is was never publicly advertised and that nepotism might have played a role.
The work iFirm had to do include investigating unfinished roads, contracts and school projects at social development, public works and the education department respectively.
But according to sources and documents seen by the Times Select, these investigations are already being investigated by the Special Investigating Unit, as per proclamation made by former president Jacob Zuma in March last year.
In December last year, provincial director general Marion Mbina-Mthembu “awarded” iFirm the tender, to “conduct further investigations into the alleged irregularities concerning various projects in the province”.Their work started on December 15 2017 and was expected to end on Sunday, June 17 2018.
This was the second contract to be awarded to iFirm in a space of a year by the provincial government. Initially they were given work to investigate information and communications technology projects at the premier’s office.
In August last year, iFirm reportedly interviewed a number of senior IT officials in the premier’s office.
Some were interrogated in an upmarket East London eatery, Grazia by Petros, his partner former Mpumalanga police commissioner Thulani Ntobela and two other officers.
It is said that iFirm was paid close to R500,000 for the work and, according to sources within Eastern Cape government, no formal report was released.
Documents seen by Times Select reveal how the R6,2-million contract was awarded to iFirm and how an intern at Mbina-Mthembu’s office, Sanelisiwe Ndandani, signed for the money to be paid.Ndandani signed as a “responsible officer” and Mbina-Mthembu approved that.
“I am working as an intern and office support,” Ndanani confirmed to Times Select.
Allegations are rife that Petros’s company was given the work because of his sister, Landiwe Petros-Mantla, who is a manager at the same office.
When approached for comment, she referred the issue to Petros. “He is in a better position to tell you that. Also, I am not working at Supply Chain Management so I don’t even know about the project,” she said. She referred further questions to department spokesperson Mandisa Titi.
Ntobela, speaking on behalf of iFirm, would not reveal how many projects they were working on, but confirmed that Petros-Mantla was Petros’s sister.“We are wondering how she can be influential. We are currently doing some investigations (in the department). I can only recall one meeting at Grazia restaurant with a person who was posing as a whistle blower. He suggested the restaurant,” said Ntobela.
She would not answer any details about the contract. “We believe the client will be in a better position to respond to that,” said Ntobela.
Senior officials in the department alleged there were no procurement processes followed to appoint iFirm.
“Those iFirm generals should know better. There was no tender advertised and they don’t meet the criteria.The source further showed Times Select the terms of reference document, which stipulated what was expected of the bidders. “We didn’t even put a tender in the newspapers for companies with the same experience to respond, nothing,” the source said.
“The terms of reference are clear that the company that will be doing these forensic investigation services should have at least three minimum cases where criminal investigation was successfully facilitated and they should provide a case number, project name and the outcome of the investigation. We never got that,” said another senior source.
Eastern Cape government spokesperson Mandisa Titi said iFirm was appointed procedurally via a closed tender by the office of the premier. She said iFirm’s mandate is to help the OTP unlock the prosecution and recovery of funds.“Following premier Phumulo Masualle’s consistent commitment to intensify the fight against fraud and corruption, iFirm is tasked with completion of some outstanding issues previously undertaken at departmental level.
“Preliminary work already undertaken by the various departments revealed evidence of non-alignment between expenditure and value on the ground. These identified cases involve more than R2-billion. Yet no one has been brought to book for the lack of value for money or, worse still, not receiving what was paid for,” said Titi.
She said the office has uncovered a lot of rot, which now has to be dealt with. “Although some of this rot dates as back as far the building of the Mthatha stadium, we have limited the investigations to start from 2014.”
Explaining the signature on the payment instruction, Titi said the “employee in question merely assisted with an administrative or clerical activity of preparing the memo for payment. This memo was recommended and signed off by appropriate personnel.”