New probe into Mabona

Mpumalanga minister for public works Steve Mabona’s department is facing another investigation — this time by the provincial auditor general.

The auditor general’s probe follows closely another investigation by a task team appointed by Premier Ndaweni Mahlangu.

The task team, which was appointed late last year to investigate the relationship between Mabona and businessman Walter Senoko, cleared Mabona of any wrongdoing.

The Mail & Guardian last week argued that the “exoneration” was a “white-wash” based on “flimsy and insubstantial investigation”.

Douglas Maphiri, the provincial auditor general, this week confirmed that his office would conduct a “thorough investigation into alleged irregularities in the department of public works” as part of his routine audit this year.
The audit would start early next month.

Maphiri said his office would launch a “special investigation” if the audit found widespread irregularities.

The audit, Maphiri said, would also look at issues raised in the media. The M&G was the first to reveal alleged irregularities in the department.

The M&G stories focused on contracts awarded to Senoko’s company, Positioning Corporate Underwriters and Insurance Consultants (PCUIC), by Mabona’s department.

The M&G revealed how, within days of R6,6-million being paid to Senoko’s company by Mabona’s department, PCUIC transferred two amounts of R500 000 each to Mabona.

The R6,6-million had been paid in terms of an underwriting contract between Mabona’s department, PCUIC and a construction company, DZ Civils.

The task team appointed by Mahlangu has since found that the R6,6-million was transferred to PCUIC by Mabona’s department in an irregular manner.

But the task team found that Mabona did not influence the awarding of the R6,6-million deal for Senoko’s company and accepted Mabona’s explanation that the R1-million payment — which flowed from the R6,6-million — was for a house and a car Mabona sold to Senoko.

The task team accepted Mabona’s explanation with little scrutiny, the M&G argued last week. Responses provided by Mabona and Senoko’s company are riddled with inconsistencies — and even contradicted by evidence under oath on behalf of Senoko’s company.

Maphiri confirmed that his office would also probe the R6,6-million contract. The audit, Maphiri said, would also look at other contracts that were not investigated by the task team. Maphiri did not specify the contracts that will be investigated.

The M&G last week showed that the task team did not probe other departmental contracts awarded to a company connected to Mabona and a Mabona relative.

Mabona was a director of a security company, Miliswa Security Consultants, in 2000 when the company tendered for a three-year multimillion-rand contract from his department. The contract, worth about R8-million to date, is to provide security services to the Mpumalanga provincial administration. Mabona resigned as a director of Miliswa after the company tendered, but before the tender was formally awarded.

Further questions are raised by public works contracts benefiting another Mabona relative. Elias Mabona, who admitted that he was related to Mabona, confirmed to the M&G in October that his companies, Makhambavele Building Construction and Nomhlekabo Constructions, had contracts from the Mpumalanga administration, including Mabona’s department.

ML

ML

Matuma Letsoalo is a senior politics reporter at the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003, focussing on politics and labour, and collaborated with the M&G's centre for investigations, amaBhungane, from time to time.In 2011, Matuma won the South African Journalist of the Year Award and was also the winner in the investigative journalism category in the same year.In 2004, he won the CNN African Journalist of the Year prize – the MKO Abiola Print Journalism Award. Matuma was also a joint category winner of the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the year Award in 2008. In 2013, he was a finalist for Wits University's Taco Kuiper Award.
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