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City of Tshwane seeks dismissal of officials charged in R295m Rooiwal tender scandal

City of Tshwane seeks dismissal of officials charged in R295m Rooiwal tender scandal
Phase one of the refurbishment project at the Rooiwal Wastewater Treatment Plant. (Photo: Julia Evans)

A year-long internal disciplinary process has found the five officials guilty of one of the four charges they faced and recommended a sanction of suspension for one month without pay — a penalty the City of Tshwane believes is not harsh enough.

The City of Tshwane is seeking harsher sanctions against five officials who were accused of gross negligence for the awarding of a R295-million Rooiwal Wastewater Treatment Plant tender to corruption-accused businessman Edwin Sodi’s company.

tshwane rooiwal tender scandal

The Rooiwal Wastewater Treatment Plant. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

A year-long internal disciplinary process has found the five officials guilty of one of the four charges they faced. The chairperson of the disciplinary board recommended a sanction of suspension for one month without pay. However, the city issued a statement on Saturday, 20 April saying it “strenuously disagrees with the outcome of the disciplinary process” and will appeal against the entire outcome at the labour court.

In the meantime, the city has placed the officials on precautionary suspension with full pay.

“If you look at the guilty finding and compare that against the sanction, you can see that the sanction is not proportional to the finding because the finding is damning,” said Selby Bokaba, the City of Tshwane’s spokesperson.

‘Shocking sanction’

“The second thing is that we looked at the entirety of the charges and they’re very serious. We’re of the view that we need to review everything — not only the sanction but the entirety of the findings… Those charges are very serious and we believe that the chairperson erred in how he arrived at these findings and that shocking sanction.

“It is the position of the city that given the seriousness of the allegations and the seniority of the officials, the city would have preferred a dismissal, and that’s what we’ll be arguing at the labour court.”

The suspended officials are:

  • Thembeka Mphefu, the divisional head of supply chain management;
  • Stephens Notoane, the group head of the water and sanitation department;
  • Justice Sekokotla, the director of the energy and electricity department;
  • Dr Frans Manganye, the divisional head of the energy and electricity department; and
  • Dumisane Gabuza, the divisional head of the water and sanitation department.

They faced the following charges:

  • Allowing Blackhead Consulting, the Sodi-linked company, to progress to the next stage of evaluation without being registered with the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) and without having the required CIDB 9CE or 9ME (contractor grading designation);
  • Making consensus-based decisions instead of evaluating independently as members of the Bid Evaluation Committee (BEC);
  • Including Blackhead Consulting in the rendering of professional services in circumstances where the city had already appointed a company to render these services, resulting in the city incurring costs of more than R10-million; and
  • Evaluating the winning bidder on the supply of belt presses with a width of 1.4m when the specification required a 2m width.

They were found guilty of only the fourth charge, relating to the width of belt presses.

Tshwane City Manager Johann Mettler said, “The officials are senior employees of the municipality and [the] majority of them on the BEC are engineers and ought to have applied themselves properly when evaluating the tender regarding the belt presses.”

The Rooiwal plant tender scandal

Daily Maverick has reported that the R295-million tender was awarded to a joint venture of CMS Water Engineering, NJR Projects and Blackhead Consulting for a refurbishment project at the Rooiwal Wastewater Treatment Plant. Only 68% of the work was done, forcing the city to cancel the contract in 2022. There were also claims that procurement processes of the tender were flouted and included irregularities.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Tshwane mayor points finger at ‘network of corruption’ as cholera death toll rises to 17

In 2023, there were cholera outbreaks and deaths in Hammanskraal, a transprovincial region anchored in northern Gauteng which relies on the Rooiwal plant to treat its sewage. While the exact source of the cholera outbreak was never officially determined, the poor state of the wastewater treatment plant was identified as a possible cause. It was reported that raw sewage had been pouring into a river near the plant.

In September 2023, President Cyril Ramaphosa authorised the Special Investigating Unit to investigate allegations of corruption and maladministration at the Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality. This included authorisation to probe the procurement and contracting for the construction of Phase 1 upgrades and urgent refurbishment at the Rooiwal Wastewater Treatment Works.

In a media statement issued by the Department of Water and Sanitation at about the same time, it was noted that problems with operations and maintenance at the Rooiwal plant had resulted in the substandard treatment of effluent, which was discharged into the Apies River and the Leeuwkraal Dam, causing poor water quality in the dam.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Hammanskraal cholera outbreak ‘represents the ears of the hippopotamus’ of SA’s wastewater treatment crisis

“The Temba Water Treatment Works abstracts water from the Leeuwkraal Dam for purification and supply to the Hammanskraal area. As a result, the water produced at the Temba plant is of poor quality and not potable,” the department stated.

The statement further highlighted that the South African Human Rights Commission had declared that water in Hammanskraal was not fit for human consumption as early as August 2019.

According to a GroundUp report, while Blackhead Consulting is being probed by the SIU over incomplete upgrades and refurbishment to the Rooiwal plant, the company has yet to be blacklisted by the National Treasury from doing business with the state. This is despite a City of Tshwane request in February that the company be blacklisted.

Sodi is embroiled in a corruption trial alongside former ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and 16 co-accused. They face charges of fraud, corruption and money laundering in relation to a 2015 asbestos tender amounting to R255-million to remove unsafe asbestos from houses in the Free State.

Read more in Daily Maverick: First ‘Zondo arrests’: Hawks nab businessman Edwin Sodi, former top officials over Ace Magashule-linked asbestos deal

Speaking about the City of Tshwane’s efforts to impose harsher sanctions on the suspended officials, Bokaba said, “I think it’s important to send out a very strong message that says we will not tolerate any acts of fraud or corruption by anyone, irrespective of the position that they hold.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘We have failed you, the people of Hammanskraal,’ says Ramaphosa

As part of the city’s efforts to prevent similar incidents, it has changed the members of its Bid Evaluation Committee.

“We’ve put people [on the BEC] that we believe are fit for purpose. And that’s the only way [to do it]… You put in people that you believe have the necessary skills and expertise, and are incorruptible, to serve in such structures,” Bokaba said. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Hendrik Pienaar says:

    Who is the investigating committee and more specifically the imposer of the “sentence”. Another cadre and how did he get there?
    Suspended with full salary???? Sounds like some more corruption is rewarded….

  • Nick Griffon says:

    This is not enough.
    This is not gross negligence. This is corruption. This is a criminal offense.
    They should be investigated for fraud, corruption and money laundering.

    Follow the money. You will find that is flows back to them through some money laundering scheme.

  • michael james says:

    good article more updates please

  • Soil Merchant says:

    Another Internal disciplinary process … Why? This is a criminal offence – it should be in the courts!

  • Grumpy Old Man says:

    Delay tactics 101 – suspension whilst hoping the municipality will fall back into more sympathetic hands – then the matter will go away – then its business as usual.
    Really, this nonsense fools no one. We are either committed to change and fighting corruption or we are not. Which is it?

  • Andre Swart says:

    ANC deployed cadres?

    Who appointed them?

    Who else shared in the spoils of their crime?

    We, the taxpayers, demand a lifestyle audit on these offenders.

    Freeze their bank accounts, withdraw their passports and recover the financial losses from their assets and pension funds.

    AND LOCK THEM UP!

  • Trevor Gray says:

    Where did Dr Frans Manganye recieve his doctorate from? No info available on Linkedin, only a masters?

  • Rae Earl says:

    The usual problem. Comrades burying their snouts in the trough containg tax payer’s money. And the reference to Dr. Frans Manganye’s qualifications is something that demands investigation. How about it DM?

  • Iam Fedup says:

    This is what happens when you pass matric maths with 35%: “Mettler said, “The officials are senior employees of the municipality and [the] majority of them on the BEC are engineers and ought to have applied themselves properly…”

    Heaven forbid that I get sick and the doctor who “qualified” gets to treat me. Of, I forgot… yes, I ended up in ICU for three weeks because of some minor food poisoning issue and he forgot to check my kidneys. Useless human beings.

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