South Africa

North West: Staff subjected to polygraph tests days before Hawks raid premier’s office

By Greg Nicolson 8 March 2018

The Hawks raided the office of North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo on Thursday over fraud and corruption allegations related to a contract with a IT company Nepo Data Dynamics, which handled IT system integration and listed tenders for the province. The raid comes after employees in the finance department were subjected to polygraph tests as the province sought to clamp down on leaks. By GREG NICOLSON.

North West Hawks spokesperson Captain Tlangelani Rikhotso confirmed the raid on Thursday morning as Hawks officers continued their search and seizure operation at the office of the North West premier. She said they weren’t specifically searching Mahumapelo’s office but were going from office to office looking for information.

The Hawks would not confirm the details of their investigation, but North West government spokesperson Brian Setswambung said the investigation related to a multi-million rand contract signed with Nepo Data Dynamics, paid to assist the province align its IT systems across various departments. The contract was from 2016 to 2019.

Haartebeespoort-based Nepo was registered in 2012 and has had four directors. All but one has since resigned. Edgar Mabothe remains the sole director and was appointed in February 2016. He has previously held top positions at EMC Southern Africa and Siemens.

Setswambung said Nepo was appointed “so we’re able to have a seamless IT programme in government”. He said it was contracted to act as a project manager co-ordinating IT expertise across government and subcontracting other firms to work for the province.

Nepo officials are listed in a number of tender requests, many coming from the premier’s office. They advertised and fielded tender submissions on behalf of government. Since 2016 the company, on behalf of the North West government, listed a tender for a liquor authority information management system, the provision of library services connectivity, and an invitation to develop and print a weekly newspaper.

Nepo also listed a tender for the smart connectivity of four villages, the appointment of a company to provide backup data services, and the provision of government advertising services. It advertised a tender to provide social media services for the premier’s office. The tender adverts list Nepo employees as contacts for points of inquiry and Nepo’s address is provided for bids to be lodged.

Daily Maverick contacted numerous sources in government this week who were afraid to speak about Nepo out of fear of intimidation. An invoice report seen by Daily Maverick, the veracity of which could not be established, suggested Nepo had been paid at least R124-million between June 2016 and March 2017. Setswambung said Nepo had only been paid fees for its work in project management, while other related fees were paid to Nepo subcontractors.

Setswambung also confirmed that employees in the North West finance department were subjected to polygraph tests this week in relation to the Nepo contract. He said outsiders had requested crucial information from staff, seeking to profit from the department’s confidential information.

Sources inside the department however, said the lie detector tests, conducted by a Johannesburg-based polygrapher, were aimed at finding out who had leaked information regarding payments to Nepo. On Monday morning workers were summoned to an emergency meeting by the department’s HOD regarding a report that was leaked on WhatsApp on Saturday night about payments to Nepo, said a source.

We were kept in the boardroom. They said we have leaked information so an investigation is being carried out and we are not going anywhere till they find who the person is.”

Approximately 12 people were taken in for lie detector tests on Monday without the presence of their union representatives. The investigator asked employees if they knew of Nepo, whether they’d done a report on the company, and whether they knew if anyone had leaked information about the company on WhatsApp on Saturday.

Rikhotso, from the Hawks, said further information would be released to the public as the investigation continues.

Mahumapelo’s North West government has also been embroiled in a scandal that saw the Gupta-linked company Mediosa pre-paid R30-million for the provision of mobile clinic services. DM

Photo: North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo at the ANC’s Elective Conference in December 2017. Photo: Leila Dougan


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