Seven officials suspended for alleged supply chain corruption after explosion at Nelson Mandela Bay substation
Seven officials in Nelson Mandela Bay’s electricity department were suspended on Tuesday after an investigation into an explosion that occurred on 11 March at a crucial substation in the metro.
On Saturday, 11 March, a large substation in Nelson Mandela Bay’s Coega Industrial Development Zone exploded, causing widespread water outages, damage estimated at R40-million and leaving factories and businesses in the area without power.
Coega is home to 56 operational investors who employ 9,659 people from all over the Eastern Cape, particularly Nelson Mandela Bay.
In a province where vandalism is rife, the first thoughts were that the explosion was the work of cable thieves, and additional security was deployed to protect crucial infrastructure.
On 18 April, following a forensic investigation, the executive mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay, Retief Odendaal, said their probe had uncovered what is possibly the “largest corruption network in the history of this administration”.
Odendaal said the preliminary investigation showed that the network had siphoned millions of rands from city coffers in the last couple of years. He said the Hawks and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) had been asked to investigate further and he hoped that there would be swift progress.
Seven officials from the metro’s Electricity and Energy Directorate were placed on precautionary suspension by the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro city manager, Noxolo Nqwazi, who is currently facing corruption charges in another matter.
Lance Grootboom from the African Christian Democratic Party is the mayoral committee member for electricity and infrastructure.
“At the time,” Grootboom said, “we were not certain if the cause of the explosion was foul play or vandalism, but I reported that the municipality would launch a full-scale investigation to uncover how the explosion occurred.
“As a result, the city instituted a forensic investigation into the matter that uncovered alleged irregularities, fraud and corruption. On the basis of that investigation, seven officials from the Electricity and Energy Directorate have been placed on cautionary suspension.
“The report indicated that there was definitely fraud and corruption happening,” Grootboom said on Tuesday. “We are looking into more contracts of that nature that have been granted over the years. We are trying to uncover what has happened.
“The investigation is ongoing.” DM/MC