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Department of Water and Sanitation welcomes assets seizure in Mhlathuze Water tender case

Department of Water and Sanitation welcomes assets seizure in Mhlathuze Water tender case

Durban – The Department of Water and Sanitation says last week’s move by the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) to seize assets owned by individuals linked to a multi-million-rand tender fraud matter at Mhlathuze Water was in line with its stance of zero-tolerance on fraud and corruption.

Last week the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA’s) AFU obtained a court order to seize assets including luxury vehicles belonging to fraud and corruption accused, former Mhlathuze Water CEO Mthokozisi Duze and former chief financial officer Babongile Mnyandu and attorney Sithembelo Mhlanga, of Mhlanga Incorporated.

The Department of Water and Sanitation’s Wisane Mavasa said they had noted the developments around the case, including the attachment of assets by the AFU.

She said the department welcomed moves to have any implicated officials face the law.

“It is encouraging that even though these officials are no longer with the water board they’re still being held to account,” said the spokesperson.

She said that the move was in line with Minister of Water and Sanitation Senzo Mchunu’s stance towards fraud and corruption in the department.

“The minister has taken a zero-tolerance stance towards corruption and fraud as demonstrated in the referral of various cases to law enforcement agencies since he joined the portfolio.

“The minister supports and has committed the department to continue to work with law enforcement institutions to hold those responsible for acts of malfeasance accountable and to recoup the money lost due to corrupt activities.”

The water entity reports directly to the minister.

Duze and Mnyandu were not available for comment yesterday despite repeated attempts to reach them via telephone calls and messages.

Approached for comment, Mhlanga said: “I cannot help you with the attachment of property (last week) because the matter is sub judice.”

In a statement, the NPA said the court-appointed curator had been ordered to locate property to the value of R37 million.

“Mhlatuze Water Board undertook a supply chain management process to appoint a panel of service providers to render legal services to the water board. The approved budget for the panel was unlawfully increased by 640% by the CEO and CFO.

“They then unlawfully awarded tenders to the value of approximately R37 million to one law firm (Mhlanga Incorporated) and excluded 15 other law firms. It is alleged that the CEO and CFO also received undue benefits from the said law firm during the period that the CEO and CFO had processed/approved the awarding of tenders to the said firm.”

It said among the assets seized were immovable property located in uMhlanga Ridge, Ballito, Mthunzini Estate, Ashburton, Pietermaritzburg, Richards Bay and Cape Town, luxury vehicles including Range Rovers, a BMW X6, a Mercedes V class, a Jaguar and a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Mhlathuze Water would not be drawn into speculating on the latest developments regarding Duze and Mnyandu.

“As you are aware the two are no longer employees of this organisation and therefore it would be improper of Mhlathuze Water to comment on the matter,” spokesperson Siyabonga Maphumulo said yesterday.

The criminal case against the accused which includes Duze, Mnyandu, Mhlanga, Thabiso Khumalo, Siphiwe Mabaso and Dr Nonhlanhla Mkhize, the director-general in the premier’s office, is back in the Durban Specialised Commercial Crimes Court tomorrow.

According to the NPA, Mkhize, Mabaso, Mhlanga and Duze are charged with intimidation, defeating/obstructing the course of justice and fraud.

Duze, Mhlanga, Khumalo and Mnyandu are charged with fraud and corruption.

THE MERCURY

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