Corruption leads the state to start verifying its assets

Minister of Public Works Thulas Nxesi. PHOTO: SIBUSISO MSIBI
Minister of Public Works Thulas Nxesi. PHOTO: SIBUSISO MSIBI

GOVERNMENT buildings have either "gone missing" or ownership changed without the knowledge of the Department of Public Works (DPW) - which looks after the government's immovable assets register.

This was revealed by Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi, who said a physical verification of state assets was being done to verify the existence, condition and extent of the government's immovable assets.

"The absence of a comprehensive and reliable register of the state's immovable assets has provided scope for fraud and corruption," he told Sowetan.

Nxesi took over the department last year after it was rocked by the police lease scandal that saw his predecessor, Gwen Nkabinde-Mahlangu, lose her job.

But Nxesi has also been investigating corruption in the department and believes even senior officials in charge of procurement processes have to declare their business interests.

The lifestyle audits on behalf of the department by former special investigating unit member Marius Giani led to the dismissal last Monday of a senior official who took bribes from the companies of a businessman to whom the department awarded 11 lease tenders.

The official was charged along with another colleague who resigned at the start of his disciplinary hearing. They both worked at the department, at times dealing with the awarding of lease tenders.

Nxesi said the department's investigation revealed that the officials had dealings with the same owner of the companies who had won tenders from the department.

The official who resigned received a Nissan Double Cab worth R566250 and several payments from the same businessman to the tune of R635000.

The one who went through the disciplinary process was found guilty for accepting R260000 in payments and a vehicle worth R254000 from companies of the same businessman who was awarded tenders. He also received two payments of R130000 each from one of the businessman's companies.

The lifestyle audit also revealed that he owned a R1.5-million property in Krugersdorp and had taken out a bond of R1.2-million in April last year though his monthly net salary was R9778,36.

"The lease review by DPW has revealed that between the two a total of 28 leases were awarded to companies owned by the businessman in question, and though some buildings were never occupied the DPW paid for the duration of the leases.

"None of the leases were advertised," Nxesi said.

Nxesi's legal adviser, Phillip Masilo, yesterday confirmed that criminal charges have been laid against the officals and and businessman at the Hillbrow police station.

Masilo said the department would soon approach the high court to recover the money paid as a result of corruption.

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