FS asbestos deal awarded without accreditation

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond 'Ray' Zondo Photo: Karen Sandison / African News Agency (ANA)
Blackhead Consulting and Diamond Hill Trading joint-venture had the skills and expertise to audit and assess asbestos houses in the Free State, but not to handle it nor remove it.

OFM News reports, this is according to Blackhead CEO Edwin Sodi, who testified before the State Capture Commission of Inquiry on Friday. Responding to questions posed by evidence leader Adv Paul Pretorius, Sodi confirmed the two Gauteng-based companies awarded a R255 million worth contract by the Free State Human Settlements Department were not in a position to remove any asbestos material from the houses they had agreed to audit as they were not accredited.

Sodi told the commission there is no need to be registered to conduct asbestos audits although there is a need to be registered to remove and dispose it.

The businessman who stands accused of making a R600 000 payment towards the purchase of a Ranger Rover for the department’s former Director, Thabane Zulu, told the commission the multimillion rand asbestos project was set to unfold in two phases with the first one entailing the audit of houses and the second the removal thereof, which they sub-contracted.

Whilst Blackhead sub-contracted the work to Mastertrade 232, and it sub-contracted to the ORI Group, Deputy Chief Justice Raymomd Zondo grilled Sodi for agreeing to do the work that requires expertise and accreditation that he did not have.

“You should have disclosed to the department that you don’t have the accreditation to do this type of work”.

In an investigative report which found the provincial department guilty of improper conduct involving this project, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, said there was no value for money and that the provincial department participated in an expired contract of the Gauteng Human Settlements Department, and failed to conduct a due diligence investigation before participating in it.

She said the province was in possession of the Gauteng Department’s Service Legal Agreement, which had expired, and went ahead to pay the service provider millions despite the Auditor-General having declared the procurement as irregular as early as July 31 in 2015. She in her report indicated that the service provider had subcontracted the contract at a fee of just over R21 million, while the service provider walked away with more than R230 million.