/ 1 March 2019

Auditors delayed Bosasa case – Hawks

Missives: Shaun Abrahams says he wrote to Hawks head Godfrey Lebeya
Missives: Shaun Abrahams says he wrote to Hawks head Godfrey Lebeya (above) to chase up the process of prosecuting Bosasa and prisons officials for corruption. Photo: Alaister Russell/Gallo Images/Sunday Times

A string of letters between former National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) boss Shaun Abrahams and Hawks head Godfrey Lebeya reveal how a contractual dispute with a forensic firm investigating Bosasa led to delays in the arrest of those implicated in the prison tenders corruption scandal.

In one letter, from Abrahams to Lebeya in August last year requesting Lebeya’s intervention, the NPA head raised serious concerns about delays in finalising Integrated Forensic Accounting Services’s investigation into Bosasa’s financials.

The forensic firm’s findings, once finalised, would be part of the evidence used in January 2019 to charge officials from the department of correctional services (DCS) and Bosasa’s executives implicated in the Special Investigations Unit’s (SIU) 2009 draft report into allegations of corruption.

“The team has held several meetings with the investigator assigned and as a result two issues remain outstanding,” Abrahams wrote in a letter dated August 10 2018. “The first being the provision of hard copies of the documents the prosecution intend to rely on to prove the allegations in a docket format. The second aspect relates to the provision of a final forensic report to the prosecution team. The latter aspect has however become a cause for concern as it seems to be unduly delaying the institution of the prosecution.”

Abrahams, who days later lost his job when the Constitutional Court ruled that his appointment was invalid, said in the letter that he had been informed that the dispute between the Hawks and Integrated Forensic Accounting Services related to the fee being charged and the work done.

“The state intends to charge various persons, for offences of corruption and money laundering … It however appears that the final report has not been signed off and submitted to the prosecution team to date. It would be highly prejudicial for the state not to have a final report before enrolment … The matter is of serious nature and is one which is long outstanding. The contractual dispute is unduly delaying the enrolment of the case and asset forfeiture proceedings,” said Abrahams.

The delays in the case have been blamed on former lead prosecutor Marijke de Kock, a deputy director of public prosecutions in the Serious Commercial Crimes Unit in Pretoria, who questioned the SIU report, insisting that it was unreliable and would not stand up to scrutiny in a criminal court.

Abrahams said the NPA had removed De Kock and replaced her with a team of prosecutors in 2016 to fast-track the case.

According to Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi, Lebeya intervened by requesting additional funds to pay the forensic firm in November last year. He said, since Integrated Forensic Accounting Services’s appointment in March 2013, a total of R1.8‑million had been paid to the firm. He had not responded to further questions at the time of going to print.

Integrated Forensic Accounting Services’ managing director Eckhard Volker denied allegations that his firm had withheld the forensic report. He said there were no disputes and that his firm was still working with the Hawks.

“We have, over the years, presented several developing versions of our reports to the client as developments in the central investigation justified slight changes in focus. We were never engaged in a fee dispute. We have also never withheld any reports pending the outcome of any fee issues. I am not in a position to comment about any delays,” said Volker.

The forensic report was delivered to the Hawks in January.

The law enforcement agencies came under more pressure when Bosasa’s former chief financial officer, Angelo Agrizzi, testified at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture, implicating government officials and politicians in grand-scale corruption and protection so that the company would secure government tenders.

Last month the Mail & Guardian revealed that Bosasa had amassed more than R12‑billion in just over a decade by milking about 40 national and provincial government departments in payments ranging from R161 for security gate remote controls to a single payment of R124‑million for a fencing contract with the department of correctional services.

Agrizzi, former Bosasa chief financial officer Andries van Tonder and correctional services’s former chief financial officer Patrick Gillingham were arrested last month and released on R20000 bail each. Former correctional services commissioner Linda Mti, who appeared in court separately, was also granted R20000 bail.

The SIU report, which was finalised in 2010, had found the following: “On the evidence before it, the SIU is accordingly satisfied that the improper and corrupt relationship between Gillingham, commissioner Mti and the Bosasa group of companies has seriously undermined the procurement process and exposed the DCS to civil suits by competitors who were unfairly treated.”