South Africa

State Capture

Bosasa to get the boot from prisons and courts

Bosasa to get the boot from prisons and courts
Photo: Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Michael Masutha, addresses the National Human Rights Day Commemoration in Uitenhage, Eastern Cape, on 21 March, 2015. (Photo: GCIS) Photo: Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Mike Masutha

Bosasa has been served with a 30-day notice that its prison catering contract will be cancelled and its security services at courts may be replaced within the week. On Monday, Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Michael Masutha defended how long it took to act.

The Department of Correctional Services has issued a 30-day notice to African Global Operations (AGO), formerly Bosasa, informing it of its decision to cancel its catering contract for prisons across the country.

Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha made the announcement in Tshwane on Monday while briefing the media on action taken against Bosasa, accused of wide-ranging allegations of corruption.

AGO currently provides catering to over 46,000 prisoners, or 29% of the country’s inmates, but the department decided to cancel its contract after it applied for voluntary liquidation once banks closed its accounts in response to corruption allegations revealed at the State Capture Inquiry.

Masutha also said the department is looking to replace the company’s subsidiary Sondolo IT, which provides CCTV and access control at courts and the Department of Justice’s head office, as soon as this week.

The Department of Justice contracted Sondolo for security services in 2008. The company finished its work in 2015, charging over R601-million. Its contract was extended for three years, costing another R340-million. That contract expired in September 2018 and Sondolo has been working on a month-to-month basis.

Masutha said the department’s security management division had failed to finalise the appointment of a new service provider but one may be appointed as soon as this week.

AGO subsidiary Global Technology Solutions was appointed to provide security for the State Capture Inquiry, with the proper procedures being ignored. An official in the justice department’s security management division has been suspended for flouting procedure, said Masutha.

He said another employee has been asked to explain why she should not be suspended for failing to secure another service to provide surveillance and monitoring services after Sondolo’s contract expired.

With the upcoming cancellation of AGO’s catering contract for prisons, Masutha said the correctional services department had plans to ensure inmates wouldn’t go hungry.

As early as next week, 8 March 2019, the DCS will commence an offender skills development project as part of the plan towards internalising nutritional services. Processes to transfer skilled staff from other facilities to assist where necessary are currently under way,” said the minister.

In 2009, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) reported on corruption in Bosasa’s catering, access control and fending contracts in prison, which were not acted on by the department or the NPA.

Masutha defended himself against claims on Monday that he hadn’t acted. “There is no contract that was ever brought to my attention showing signs of irregularity that I simply turned a blind eye to. I challenge anybody who has one to point it out to me,” he said.

The minister said he acted when he was appointed by not renewing the term of the acting commissioner of correctional services. He said the SIU did not recommend that Bosasa be blacklisted nor did it say how much money the department should try to recover, which made launching civil claims difficult.

At the time, the SIU had no power to launch its own legal action. SIU head Andy Mothibi said on Monday that the organisation may seek to have its previous proclamation to investigate Bosasa extended by President Cyril Ramaphosa so it can further investigate.

The DA’s shadow minister of justice, Glynis Breytenbach said on Monday that Masutha was not serious about tackling corruption.

The precautionary suspension of one or two scapegoated officials does not go nearly far enough to start to get to the heart of the problem,” she said.

This is nothing but a smoke and mirrors show designed to convince the South African electorate that the failing ANC government is taking recent revelations about a long-standing and fundamentally corrupt relationship between themselves and Bosasa seriously.”

Masutha also gave an update on Monday on the investigations into alleged corruption in cases of medical negligence.

He said a prominent attorney had been arrested in Eastern Cape for fraudulent claims amounting to R100-million and officials were investigating six more cases of fraud worth R90-million.

Masutha said auditing firm Sizwe Ntsaluba-Gobodo has been hired to investigate allegations of corruption made at the State Capture Inquiry regarding Bosasa’s security contracts awarded since 2006. The review is expected to be finalised within three months. DM

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