COUNCIL BOSS suspended

Eric Naki

Eric Naki

The boss of Emalahleni local municipality in Mpumalanga is in trouble after he allegedly awarded a R26 million contract to a company linked to him.

Tender documents show that municipal manager Annanias Langa awarded the contract to a Middleburg based engineering firm to build a road though its representatives did not attend a compulsory bidder's briefing.

The session is a prerequisite for bidders to qualify for short-listing.

On Thursday a council meeting in Witbank, after a briefing by mayor Linah Malatji, resolved to suspend Langa, who is also chairman of the municipalities bidding committee, pending a full investigation of the matter.

He has been suspended with full pay.

The matter came to light when companies that attended the compulsory session found out that the contract had been awarded to Afra Infra, a Middleburg firm that did not attend the briefing.

The company is believed to be linked to Langa. But it is not clear if he is the owner or a shareholder, something that the investigation team will also determine.

After hearing about the alleged irregularity the mayoral committee summoned Langa and questioned him about the awarding of the contract. He was told to submit a final report.

He confirmed that the contract was awarded but that it has since been reversed.

The firm confirmed it had been awarded the contract, but said it was later withdrawn. It also confirmed that it did not attend the briefing.

An attendance register for bidders, of which Sowetan has a copy, shows that about 120 consulting companies attended the briefing on May 31 2007, but there was no representative from Afra Infra Consulting.

But the company's name appears on the list of consultant bidders.

The list shows that Afra's approved deposit, including VAT and disbursement, was R1,6million. But a firm based in Nelspruit had submitted a bid for a whopping amount of R3,5million.

But despite the large amount, the firm did not get the contract.

The DA's Mpumalanga chief whip, Clive Hatch, yesterday expressed concern about corruption in municipalities.

"We support any action aimed at eliminating corruption," Hatch said. "We hope that any other matter of this kind will be dealt with promptly."

Attempts on Friday and at the weekend to get Langa to comment failed. He did not return a message left on his cellphone.

ANC Nkangala regional chairman Charles Makola announced at a provincial outreach meeting yesterday that the council's decision to suspend Langa was unprocedural and that it would be rescinded. But the ANC PEC did not entertain the issue.

Meanwhile, there were rumours at the weekend that some ANC councillors were planning to have Langa reinstated.

Council spokesman Lebo Mofokeng said he had heard about Langa's suspension, adding that the matter was being dealt with by the ANC.