Officials signed off on R63m 'pothole repair fraud' in Limpopo
Two senior department of roads and transport officials who "authorised" the payment of millions for potholes to be fixed in Limpopo, when most were not, have been hauled to court for fraud.
Former senior project manager Margaret Mthombeni, 64, and then acting expanded public works programme co-ordinator Richard Ngobeni, 69, were arrested by the Hawks for allegedly defrauding the department of almost R63m in 2011.
Hawks spokesperson Brig Hangwani Mulaudzi said a forensic investigation commissioned by the minister of roads and transport revealed that in March 2011 the department issued official purchase orders to service providers without following procurement procedures.
“The tenders were not advertised and all companies invited for the briefing were sourced outside the department's data base. The selected service providers were requested to submit quotations to repair potholes on different roads in Limpopo province. Ninety-one quotations were sourced to patch potholes,” said Mulaudzi.
One construction company that was awarded contracts to patch potholes in Mopani district submitted invoices even before commencing the work, claiming the project was complete. Mthombeni and Ngobeni allegedly signed payment certificates certifying them as correct. The company was ultimately paid R4.1m.
“Investigations revealed that some of the roads were already fixed, while others were actually gravel roads. Most of the service providers at the time submitted invoices for payment for either work not done or/and for less work done in terms of specifications. All service providers were subsequently paid and the department suffered a loss of R63m,” he said.
“Investigations of this nature can be time-consuming and need teamwork to minimise time. It has taken eight years to complete this investigation. I am comforted by the fact that the investigation is complete. We will secure the attendance of all those who played a role in this scam in court to answer for looting public funds,” said Hawks head Lt-Gen Godfrey Lebeya.
Mthombeni and Ngobeni were granted R4,000 bail each. They will appear in court again on September 27. The Hawks said more arrests were “imminent”.