SIU 'ignoring' R60m housing graft

The Special Investigating Unit in 2011 asked forensic accountant Anton Kriel to look into missing money ­relating to a project to build low-cost homes in extensions 25 and 28 of Huhudi, Vryburg. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

The Special Investigating Unit in 2011 asked forensic accountant Anton Kriel to look into missing money ­relating to a project to build low-cost homes in extensions 25 and 28 of Huhudi, Vryburg. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

This is despite incriminating evidence provided by a forensic accountant more than a year ago.

AmaBhungane approached Johannesburg-based accountant Anton Kriel to ask what headway had been made since he handed his evidence to the Hawks in January last year.

"There has been little if any progress, and definitely nothing in respect of the financial investigation," Kriel said. "A possible suspect is out there and nothing seems to have happened in terms of a prosecution. What angers me is that the money was not used to build houses for poor people and uplift our community – it's a crime against humanity, in my opinion."

In November 2011, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) asked Kriel to probe a scheme to build 3000 low-cost homes in Vryburg's Naledi Local Municipality.
His cash flow analysis, bolstered by the SIU power to scrutinise personal bank accounts, points to a massive misappropriation of government funds.

The main contractor responsible for the construction of the houses and provision of bulk services in extensions 25 and 28 of Huhudi in the Naledi municipality was Khasu Engineering Services, whose sole director is Khotso Frank Khasu.

Khasu's role was first placed in the spotlight by an independent consultant who inspected the building site for the SIU in March 2011. The consultant is known to have found that, of R86-million paid over by the council, only R20-million was translated into actual construction work – leaving R60-million unaccounted for.

The SIU's preliminary inquiry allegedly found that only four houses had been completed, and that Khasu Engineering had billed the council for millions of rands of earthworks, roads, storm water structures, streetlights and foundations that were not provided.

Reply
Kriel was brought in to trace the missing millions. Asked to detail his findings this week, he was reluctant to say much, but confirmed that:

Between June 2008 and September 2009 the Naledi municipality paid R27-million to Khasu Engineering and another R58-million into two personal accounts held by Khasu himself. By May 2010, all three accounts had been emptied.

The money was channelled to at least 167 other accounts, many of them held by Khasu, his relatives or business associates.

Just over R1-million was paid into an account belonging his wife, Surgely Ouma Khasu, and another R5-million was paid to a company called SK Technologies, of which Ouma Khasu is the sole member.

Pressed on other beneficiaries, Kriel indicated that there were many, including Gugulethu Matlaopane, to whose account Khasu transferred at least R1-million during the first year of the housing project.

A search on Matlaopane shows that she is Khasu's business partner in two companies, Ubunye K&K Project Management and Khasu Matlaopane Election Management CC.

Phoned for comment, Matlaopane said she was in a meeting and asked for questions to be emailed to her.

AmaBhungane sent a list of questions to her email address but had not received a reply by the time of going to press.

During the period in question, Khasu paid more than R5-million to transfer attorneys in connection with the purchase of properties, including a farm in Gauteng.  Some of the money may have been moved offshore, as an amount was deposited into the Habib Overseas Bank.

Tender process
Khasu was found to have moved hundreds of thousands of rands into the account of Eric Phukwana, the acting manager of Naledi municipality between July 2007 and August 2008 – the period during which the contract was awarded.

As there appears to have been no proper tender process for the Naledi housing scheme, these payments look extremely suspicious. Asked in writing what they were for, neither Khasu nor Phukwana responded.

Questioned about his role in detailed written questions, Khasu said he did not want to get involved, and that "only time will tell".

A case was opened in February last year and Kriel said that since then he has written many letters to the Hawks to establish what progress has been made, but without success.

The amaBhungane sent questions two weeks ago to the investigating officer, Colonel Benoni Lekhuleni, but he had not replied by the time of going to print.

Responding to questions, Kriel also indicated that Khasu Engineering itself may have done little or no construction work. About R20-million flowed from Khasu-connected accounts to another construction company, Shatsane Systems Solutions, which may have acted as a subcontractor.

Asked why it had not used its powers to freeze the suspected proceeds of crime, SIU said the investigation had been concluded and that no further information could be divulged.

Naledi's current municipal manager, Modisenyane Segapo, said that the provincial government had taken over procurement in respect of the Naledi housing project and that a new contractor, Toro Ya Africa, had been appointed to build 1000 houses by the end of July.

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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources.

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