Umgeni Water probe begins | Witness

Umgeni Water probe begins | Witness

Umgeni Water probe begins | Witness

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has been given the go-ahead to go full steam with the tender fraud investigation at Umngeni Water Board (UWB).

The SIU spokesperson, Kaizer Kganyago, on Tuesday told The Witness that last year they were working on allegations that were brought forward, looking into whether there were cases to answer.

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Kganyago said the process was completed and all the processes were followed leading up to President Cyrl Ramaphosa’s proclamation, which was gazetted on Friday.

He said the SIU will investigate unauthorised, irregular, or fruitless and wasteful expenditure incurred by the UWB in relation to certain contracts.

Furthermore, the investigation will delve into any improper or unlawful conduct by officials or employees of the UWB or the state, the applicable service providers, or any other person or entity in relation to the allegations.

He said the proclamation covers allegations of unlawful and improper conduct that took place between March 1, 2018 and June 2, 2023, the date of the publication of the Proclamation, or before March 1, 2018 and after the date of the Proclamation that are relevant to or connected with these contracts.

The Witness reported last year that the unit was set to recoup over R400 million on behalf of Umgeni Water following fraudulent tendering processes after allegations of corruption as well as fruitless and wasteful expenditure surfaced.

At the time, the SIU had briefed its Civil Litigation Unit on five unspecified contracts valued at R465 million, with the aim of instituting civil proceedings in the Special Tribunal to declare the contracts invalid.

The investigation into the water utility was initiated by Ramaphosa in 2019.

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Eighteen disciplinary referrals to Umgeni Water have been made, while 45 administrative action referrals were made to place the entities and individuals involved on Umgeni Water’s Vendor List of Defaulters as well as National Treasury’s Database of Restricted Suppliers.

Seven projects to be investigated

The SIU was roped into the tender saga in 2019 to investigate seven projects.

These are: the upgrade of emergency boreholes in the Umkhanyakude District to the value of R51 million; the repair or refurbishment of the Nagle Aqauduct — R57 million; the replacement of filter slabs, pipelines including nozzles — R65 million; the provision of chlorine and distribution equipment at the Durban Heights Plant (the project was later extended to include the upgrading of shaft pumps and lifts) — R130 million; the provision of emergency pipelines in the Ugu District Municipality — R27 million; purchasing and installation of control valves — R55 million; installation of pipelines in the Nungwane area, Amanzimtoti — R80 million.

Kganyago said they could not embark into a full investigation with all their power at the time without the presidential proclamation.

… Our preliminary findings are sent to the president in the form of a draft proclamation through the Justice Department. We have done that and the president has gazetted the proclamation on Friday. The full investigation is on.

Shami Harichunder, corporate stakeholder manager at Umgeni Water, said: “Umgeni Water is aware of the new proclamation issued by the president of the Republic of South Africa authorising the SIU to investigate allegations of maladministration and corruption in certain affairs of Umgeni Water relating to certain contracts.

“Umgeni Water will work with and co-operate fully with the SIU in its investigation, from inception to conclusion.”