THE brother of a top Limpopo state official scored at least
R6.9 million from a company that was awarded a R320m textbook distribution
tender after the official played a key role in awarding the tender.
The deal involving EduSolutions, a company owned and run by
former top government mandarins, is the latest controversy in the R320m deal
that was scrapped as “illegal” in April and is now the subject of a major
EduSolutions – which has deals in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and
elsewhere – says it has done nothing wrong and is litigating to regain the
But this week, City Press obtained documents that raise more
uncomfortable questions about the deal.
The documents show how Hlomphanag Cleaning Services – solely
owned by Matome Letsoalo, the brother of the Limpopo education department’s
acquisition unit head – got at least R6.9m worth of subcontracting work from
EduSolutions after it was awarded the controversial contract.
Peter Letsoalo was intimately involved in the evaluation and
awarding of the textbook tender, and also signed off on a R19m advance payment
when the multiyear contract was signed at the end of 2010. He was a member of
the bid evaluation team that recommended the deal go to EduSolutions.
The deal meant EduSolutions would buy and distribute
textbooks for the province, splitting the discounts from publishers with the
The wrangle over the contract has seen thousands of school
children in Limpopo left without books almost halfway through the school year –
and has led to successful court action by an activist group to compel the state
to provide books.
In 2010 Peter Letsoalo was part of a delegation of Limpopo
department officials who went on a fact-finding mission to KwaZulu-Natal and
Gauteng to assess how EduSolutions operated there.
Matome Letsoalo denied that he got the contract because of
his brother’s involvement.
“I went on my own to EduSolutions at their depot after I had
heard that there was this contract to distribute books.
They came and did an inspection on my trucks, and they gave
me work because I had capacity and trucks. My brother didn’t have anything to
do with the contract.”
EduSolutions’ lawyer, Ian Small-Smith, denied that the
contract was given to Matome because of his brother’s influence.
He said normal procedures were followed by EduSolutions in
awarding the contracts, and the decision was based on ability and capacity.
They did not know Matome was related to the Limpopo
Small-Smith said the claims were “inflamatory”.
“Uttering it is defamatory and EduSolutions will certainly
act against all who suggests that we have entered into this contract to benefit
Peter Letsoalo,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Anti-Corruption Task Team is investigating
the textbook tender since it was terminated by the former head of the national
basic education department’s education team, Anis Karodia.
The contract’s termination came months after claims were made
to City Press earlier this year by Solly Shitangano, a former general manager
in the province’s education department, who charged that it was riddled with
procedural and legal problems.
Shitangano had blown the whistle even before the department
was put under administration and had informed the Public Protector, Premier
Cassel Mathale and President Jacob Zuma’s office of his concerns.
However, he was dismissed by the department on charges of
gross negligence, gross insubordination and others.
Last June, Neo Africa, appointed by the then head of the
Limpopo education department, Benny Boshielo, to do a forensic investigation
found that the contract with EduSolutions was sound.
EduSolutions, a subsidiary in a burgeoning empire called
African Access Holdings, and online company records show that the directors
include Mogopodi Mokoena, a former Gauteng director-general, and Joy Matsebula,
a former acting director in the office of the presidency.
Others include Mateli Mpuntsha, a former director in the communications
department; Thabo Mpama, a former chairperson of the state training authority
for IT; Shaun Battleman, the Black Management Forum’s top entrepreneur for
2011; Moosa Ntimba, a former CFO of the Government Printing Works; and Seth
Phalatse, a non-executive chairperson of BMW.
Peter Letsoalo did not respond to requests for comment.