Debt collectors circle Nkandla architect

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Debt collectors circle Nkandla architect

Minenhle Makhanya faces a R155m lawsuit from the graft-busting SIU after his firm filed for voluntary liquidation

Journalist


The Special Investigating Unit’s five-year pursuit of Nkandla architect Minenhle Makhanya to retrieve more than R155m is in court next month. But according to documents he has fallen on hard economic times.
Makhanya – Jacob Zuma’s personal architect and the man behind the sprawling R246m upgrade project at the former president’s sprawling compound – has a lot to answer for.
Antigraft investigators want him to pay back R155.3m to taxpayers for his “unlawful, wrongful and negligent conduct” in allegedly inflating the costs of “security upgrades”.
But while the civil trial in the Pietermaritzburg High Court looms, Times Select can reveal that his firm, Minenhle Makhanya Architects – run out of a nondescript house in a suburb of Pinetown – has fallen on hard times.Publicly available documents show the firm, the vehicle through which he scored R16m in fees for his work on the Nkandla project, applied for voluntary liquidation.Makhanya had not responded to requests for comment, and could not be reached at the time of publishing.  The SIU probe, launched in 2014, found Makhanya allegedly “overdesigned” the scope of works without authorisation, approved payments to service providers far above market rates, authorised payments for work that wasn’t even done and failed to obtain a breakdown of the work charged for by contractors.He allegedly also overcharged the department for his own professional fees and those of others.
Among the big-ticket Nkandla bills the SIU is demanding he pay for are nearly R4m for VIP parking and the infamous “firepool”, R4m for a visitors’ lounge and R5m for basement parking.
And while the damning report unearthed a project riddled with illegal appointments and unbridled spending, Makhanya has not had to face the music – until now.
SIU spokesperson Nazreen Pandor said their legal pursuit had been bogged down by an interlocutory application brought by Makhanya.
It was delayed further when the architect fired his lawyers and appointed a new legal team last year.
“The SIU report was finalised and submitted to the president on 20 August 2014, eight months after the investigation was proclaimed. Civil proceedings were instituted on 11 August 2014,” she said.
“The SIU has had to queue as an ordinary litigant in the high court,” Pandor added.
She said the trial had been set down from June 10 to 21.
The SIU report found Makhanya’s appointment was allegedly made at the request of Jean Rindel, the department of public works’ project manager for Nkandla. The department’s director-general had also made the request.
Investigators established no competitive bidding or open tender process was followed, and Makhanya was appointed despite him not being on the department’s list of registered suppliers.
Twelve senior officials from the department of public works, among them Rindel, who faced a disciplinary hearing relating to the security upgrades were let off the hook in April last year.
The officials maintained their innocence throughout‚ arguing they had followed all proper procedures in terms of the security upgrades at Zuma’s homestead.
They returned to work after a settlement with the department, the details of which were shrouded by nondisclosure clauses.
Makhanya’s trial will, however, be subject to public scrutiny, and could pave the way for the pursuit of those implicated in state capture.
Pandor said: “The recent establishment of the special tribunal, which will serve as a dedicated forum for the adjudication of civil matters emanating from SIU investigations, should expedite the finalisation of civil proceedings instituted by the SIU.”

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