THE INSIDE JOB

R200m later – how SA’s top cops captured police supply chain management for personal financial gain

By Marianne Thamm 14 October 2020

Axed acting national police commissioner Kgomotso Phahlane. (Photo: Leila Dougan) / Deputy National Commissioner Lieutenant-General Bonang Mgwenya. (Photo: Gallo Images/Brenton Geach)

The indictment in the State v 15 others sets out in detail how acting National Commissioner Khomotso Phahlane and Deputy National Commissioner Bonang Mgwenya captured the SAPS supply chain to gratify themselves and others at the expense of taxpayers.

The 15 suspects have all appeared in the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court in Gauteng earlier this year and will face a whopping 390 counts of fraud and corruption amounting to about R200-million.

The indictment, signed by the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA’s) Investigative Directorate head Hermione Cronje, is meticulous, detailed and thorough. Those who have perused it have remarked on its quality. In other words, it is a watertight case.

In the mix of the top echelons of the SAPS who have been implicated in the massive fraud involving blue light tenders is Divisional Commissioner SAPS Supply Chain Management (SCM) and head of the SAPS Bid Adjudication Committee (BAC), Lieutenant-General Ramahlaphi Mokwena.

The 168-page charge sheet shows that soon after his appointment as acting National Commissioner on 14 October 2015, Phahlane set to work. 

First, he withdrew a 24 March 2010 circular which required all bids above R500,000 be processed through the office of the National Commissioner.

Instead, Phahlane appointed Mokwena on 1 March 2016 to the BAC and empowered the committee to award contracts above the threshold value of R500,000.

At the end of that month, Phahlane appointed Mokwena as chairperson of the BAC.

Mokwena had been appointed on the recommendation of a panel “notwithstanding the fact that he scored third place behind two other candidates rated as better qualified by the panel”, reads the indictment.

On that panel were Phahlane, Mgwenya and Lieutenant-Generals Berning Ntlemeza, Stefan Schutte and Gary Kruser.

The setting the corrupt cops found themselves in at the time was ripe for the picking.

This all happened in the lacuna of the expiry in 2014 of an SAPS contract to procure emergency equipment for vehicles with no new contract in place. 

However, the National Treasury had in place a “Transversal contract” for procurement of emergency warning equipment for emergency vehicles, including police vehicles, from 2015 to 2017, so it sort of covered a base or two.

The indictment sets out how the SAPS had attended all meetings hosted by the Treasury relating to specifications and the bid evaluation process in the procurement. 

The Treasury had also hosted a separate meeting with SAPS in relation to Category 2 of the tender: Emergency Warning Lights (EWL). 

At no stage, notes the indictment, did SAPS express any objections to the process or the suitability of these specifications.

Enter Vimpie Manthata, owner of Instrumentation for Traffic Law Enforcement (Pty) Ltd (ITLE).

Not only was Manthata’s business not discussed by the panel; he didn’t even apply for the tender.

Nonetheless, he was awarded it.

Here’s how the deal went down.

The SAPS, after receiving bids, decided that it did not want to participate in Category 2 and that “the wrong sample had been used for purposes of the tender”.

In August 2016, Phahlane signed a letter to the Chief Director: Transversal Contracting in the Treasury about the RT4-2015 tender. 

The national commissioner said the SAPS was in the final stages of tweaking specifications and that it had, in fact, decided to establish its “own contract” for blue lights.

“On 19 August 2016 Accused 2 [Mokwena] wrote a letter to National Treasury requesting National Treasury to expand the meaning of emergency and/or urgent procurement ‘to include cases of urgency’.”

On the same day, the Chief Director: Transversal Contracting at the Treasury responded, granting SAPS permission to establish its own contract.

And so the feeding began.

Approval was based on reasons provided in the letters of Phahlane and Mokwena dated 12 August 2016 and 19 August 2016.

Prior to August 2016, SAPS had already attempted two procurement exercises that had failed.

In the 2016/2017 financial year, the Gauteng SAPS SCM had identified the need a to equip “all newly acquired motor vehicles with integrated warning lights and sirens and allocated an amount of R10-million for this purpose.”

The first request was issued in April 2016 and four responses were received for the initial request for proposals issued.

On 11 May 2016, Mokwena intervened in the first process, instructing that it be started afresh.

This happened as two suppliers, Hazard, a previous supplier of emergency equipment, and ITLE, which had previously supplied emergency equipment to the presidential unit, had not been invited to submit quotations.

By the time the matter reached the BEC, it had decided that only Instrumentation for Traffic Law Enforcement was compliant.

“On 8 August 2016, Lieutenant-Colonel J Boonzaaier was contacted first by Lieutenant-General Mgwenya and then Lieutenant-General Phahlane who had both instructed him to meet with Manthata and to assist him in bidding for a portion and/or the complete SAPS National Emergency Blue Lights and Siren tender” reads the indictment.

Phahlane had requested Boonzaaier to contact Mokwena and Mgwenya and arrange a meeting which subsequently took place at the SAPS Academy Pretoria West on the same day (8 August 2016).

“Boonzaaier met Accused 13 [Manthata], Accused 11 [Judy Rose] and Accused 12 [Samantha Andrews] at Manthatha’s offices  to draw up specifications (for a specific part relating to high-performance vehicles) which would render Instrumentation for Traffic Law Enforcement  the only viable supplier.”

The tweaking took place over a few days as the specifications “were tailor-made to suit the blue lights imported by Accused 14 [Instrumentation for Traffic Law Enforcement].

“None of the persons involved in the compilation of the specifications were authorised by the PFMA to do so” the indictment states.

On 11 August 2016, an information note was addressed to Phahlane to request approval “to accept and utilise the specifications compiled at the premises of Accused 14 [ITLE] for purposes of inviting written price quotations for blue lights from suppliers”.

Phahlane approved the specification on 14 September.

The following month, on 7 October 2016, the Gauteng Provincial SCM issued its third request for quotations in which suppliers were asked to quote, based on “the manipulated specification for emergency warning equipment”, notes the indictment.

Manthata submitted a bid which the BEC calculated was worth R191,145,267.00.

For the next two months Phahlane, Mgwenya, Ramanjalum and Mokwena were all in contact with Manthata.

On 9 November 2016, the BEC convened to consider the quotations received despite objections from the three suppliers

Ramanjulum and Thomas Marima were members of the Bid Evaluation Committee (BEC) and its submission to the BAC was that Manthata’s quote be accepted.

The BAC, chaired by Mokewna, approved this despite objections.

Accused No 6 in the indictment, Major-General Ravichandran Pillay, National Head of SAPS Procurement, was a member of the BAC. He had been aware that there had been “serious objections to the process that had been followed, because he was told so in October 2016 by Capt. De Beer”. 

Mokwena and Major-General Nombhuruza Napo, Deputy Provincial Commissioner of Gauteng, both knew “as they had met to discuss the objections, and decided to proceed anyway. When the quote was approved, no objections were raised.”

And so on 14 November the deal was signed and sealed.

“Approval was granted per item instead of stating the total amount for 1 550 motor vehicles. ‘Item 1’ was charged at R85,643.64 per unit and ‘item 2’ was charged at R38,931.75 per unit. A total of 1,550 motor vehicles were to be fitted with blue lights, the BAC approved a contract for an amount of R191,145,267.00,” NPA investigators found.

No written service level agreement was concluded with the supplier by either the Gauteng SAPS or the SAPS at national level. 

“This exposed the SAPS to actual or potential losses amounting to R191,145,267.00,” reads the charge.

But it didn’t stop there.

The bringing to book of this high-profile cabal of officials who captured the country’s police service is a significant victory in rooting out the corrupt who have compromised the safety of every South African while they looted. 

During March 2017 Lieutenant-General Deliwe de Lange, Provincial Commissioner of Gauteng SAPS, initiated communications with Manthata in relation to the procurement of emergency warning equipment for the 2017/2018 financial year. This she did after contacting Phahlane.
On 29 June 2017, an order for an amount of R39,896,189.94 was issued to  Manthata and his company by Gauteng SAPS on the instructions of De Lange and Napo. 

De Lange and Napo were granted “procurement authorisation” by Mokwena and Ramanjalum without following the prescribed procurement processes.

In exchange for helping to loot the state, these top SAPS officials were paid in cash, in kind, through the use of “courtesy vehicles”, TV sets, bond payments and clothing.

Investigators traced cash deposits to the bank accounts of almost all of those SAPS members accused: 

“Copies of the bank statements of Accused 2 [Mokwena], Accused 3 [Ramanjalum], Accused 4 [De Lange] and Accused 5 [Napo] reveal that each of them received cash into their bank accounts the source of which is not disclosed by them in their mandatory disclosure forms,” reads the indictment.

“In this manner Accused 2 received R1,454,550.00. Accused 3 received R1,833,500.24, Accused 4 received R174,193.00, Accused 5 received R126,580.00 and Accused 6 received R207,000.00. Accused 7 received R1,548,271.79 and Accused 10 received R744,000 into his account. Accused 4 received payments of R411,600 towards various items purchased from Boticelli between August and December 2017 and Accused 5 received R520,000.

On 27 October 2016 Accused 7 [Phahlane] received payment of R27,500.00 for the purchase of clothes from Surtee Esquire (Pty) Ltd trading as Grays Clothing Store and payments totalling R230,800.00 made to Roberto Botticelli on his behalf.

Accused 15 [Mgwenya] received the benefit of a courtesy vehicle for 15 months between February 2016 and May 2017; a discount in the total amount of R284,580 from Zambesi Auto and/or a gift and/or assistance in the form of payment of R440,000 made by Accused 13 and/or Accused 14 towards the purchase of a BMW X5 for R1,217,932.92.

When good cop, Brigadier Makoma Florah Buthelezi, reported the irregular expenditure, Mokwena, De Lange and Napo “initiated investigations against Buthelezi”.

They did this while Buthelezi had acted “in accordance with the prescripts of the law”.

Meanwhile, back in 2017, on 3 May, Phahlane as acting National Commissioner of the South African Police Service and its accounting officer, submitted the signed-off SAPS annual financial report to the Treasury and the Auditor-General as prescribed by the PFMA. 

“He failed to disclose the irregular expenditure incurred in respect of payments to Accused 13 and/Accused 14,” reads the indictment.

And now, we are here. 

In the dock with the SAPS budget having been shortchanged by millions by top cops in a position of trust and authority.

The bringing to book of this high-profile cabal of officials who captured the country’s police service is a significant victory in rooting out the corrupt who have compromised the safety of every South African while they looted. 

The trial of the 15 is expected to start in November. DM

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All Comments 13

  • What a bunch of crooks. Small wonder local stations are riddled with bent cops. Hope the courts set sentences that take cognizance of public inflamed outrage and recoup not just the booty but cost of prosecution and state functionaries and repurposing of SAPS. Cos let’s face it they’ve never been up to much but thuggery; as lockdown clearly demonstrates. Cele should be fired.

  • If there’s this level of corruption around some electronic equipment it is surely a relatively minor matter, just the tip of vast theft networks in many other areas?

  • Jesus, is there any institution in South Africa that hasn’t been plundered by these ANC linked crooks??
    Just look at Eskom 5,300 employees on the gravy train.I think under Zuma its called trickle down economics.

  • I struggled to make sense of it all. How does this get to the public? The story should be told on ALL media, Radio, TV, etc.
    Its time that massive civil protests take place and that Cyril steps up or steps down. He has to set up a full time tribunal the sole purpose of this is to weed out all culprits. All culprits to brought to account, seizure of all assets for state benefits with fully trustworthy treasurers . The assets of the crooked suppliers need to be investigated too as they derived wealth from illegal activities. you cant tell me they did not know.
    This type of information causes a new type of mental dis-pare …………”profound exasperation,irritation, nettle, peeved, provocation,rile and intense anger.

  • So many people have been affected by SAPS corruption – families & victims of murder, homicide, rape, child abuse, aggravated assault, sexual assault, hi-jacking, robbery, fraud, etc. – all not given the proper attention by the SAPS because they’re understaffed, undertrained, lack the tools & assets to do anything remotely resembling a proper job because all the money has been stolen or squandered, and don’t tell me that Cele doesn’t know exactly whats going on! But a school headmaster is held responsible for what his staff have or haven’t dome and fired, his career ruined! So why have Cele, Magashule, Zwane, etc.. etc.. not been fired and sued by the victims and their families, just like what they’re doing to the school headmaster??

  • Do these SAPs officials get put on special (paid) leave whilst the case is being heard. And if found guilty , do they loose/ get stripped of their titles and all benefits/pensions accorded to the title/rank? or do they merely continue to “eat” the taxpayers money.

  • The ripple effect of all this corruption has far greater consequences. Young people are emigrating because they do not feel safe. So our tax base reduces, our skills reduce. And so it gets worse. Ramaphosa is working within the political constraints which seems slow but hopefully is thorough. Really really good to see the top cops up on charges. My sympathy lies with the good ordinary policeman/woman who have endured the disintegration of a good police service and bullying which goes with corruption. Hopefully morale will improve

  • Not a total surprise, given the fact that the rot extends from the very highest echelons. I certainly hope that the boys (and girls) in blue will soon be seen in orange. Without a reliable and honest police service, this country is doomed, so there’s no room for procrastination or prevarication.

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