Contractor sentenced to jail for 3 years

Alfred Moselakgomo

A Mpumalanga building contractor who defrauded the government of more than R100000 has been jailed for three years and ordered to repay the money.

Surprise Mphokane of Mamosuthu Construction, who was sentenced in the Nelspruit magistrate's court yesterday for defrauding the provincial department of local government and housing of R102061, has also been ordered to repay the money.

Mphokane was appointed by the department to build 25 RDP houses in the Thaba Chweu municipality.

He claimed R102061 for work that was not done.

Department spokesman Simphiwe Kunene said the discrepancy was picked up during routine inspections and investigations.

"The department found that the contractor had claimed payment on incomplete houses and then [the department] reported the matter to the police," he said.

Kunene said investigations were continuing against other contractors who defrauded the government.

"All contractors who are found to have defrauded the department will face the full might of the law.

"Those service providers found to have defrauded the department will also be blacklisted by the department," he warned.

"We will not allow unscrupulous contractors to get away with theft and corruption."

He added that the department will leave "no stone unturned in making sure that it roots out corruption by service providers and officials".

Mphokane is the first contractor to be convicted and sentenced for defrauding the department.

The DA in Mpumalanga welcomed the sentence, calling it "great news".

"This shows that the department is on track to rid itself of corrupt contractors," said DA leader Anthony Benadie.

"For too long the department's performance was undermined by the awarding of housing contracts to contractors who are not equipped and skilled to do the work," he said.

Benadie said as at March 31 Mpumalanga had a housing backlog of almost 200000 units across all municipalities.

He said this was mainly because inexperienced emerging contractors were awarded housing tenders that they were unable to deliver upon.