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Ekurhuleni municipality accused of forcing businessman to pay a bribe

Jun 17 2018 06:11
Lesetja Malope

A service provider to the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality has accused its senior officials of terminating his copier contract, worth as much as R36 million, after he refused to pay bribes they allegedly demanded.

Thabo Rapodile, managing director of IT company DataOpt, alleges that two officials tried to solicit a R300 000 monthly bribe from him. It was allegedly facilitated by Absalom Budeli, the chairperson of an ANC branch in Ekurhuleni.

The municipality has denied the allegations.

Rapodile reported the matter to the Hawks in October after advice from his lawyers. Budeli allegedly solicited a bribe of R100 000 a month from Rapodile, to be paid to Ekurhuleni chief information officer Moloko Monyepao. This was allegedly to ensure the municipality made outstanding payments for work his company had done. He received R6.6 million a week later.

The amount was subsequently increased to R300 000, allegedly to include Ekurhuleni city manager Imogen Mashazi.

Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi confirmed that Rapodile reported the matter to them and that the case had been referred to its anti-corruption investigative unit.

The municipality’s spokesperson, Themba Gabede, denied Rapodile’s claims that the two officials solicited a bribe from Rapodile.

City Press has seen the form that Rapodile filed with the Hawks to report the matter.

Budeli said he was aware of the complaint.

According to Rapodile: “Budeli asked for R100 000 per month [for Monyepao]. I told him I am going away on holiday and they must first pay me and we will talk when I return. When I returned, the money was paid and we had a second meeting. He said they now wanted R300 000 because the money has to include Mashazi. He called her and offered for us to go to her house, but she said she was not feeling well.”

At the time, the company was invoicing the municipality an average of R2.2 million a month.

The allegations are contained in legal correspondence between Rapodile’s lawyers and the municipality.

The contract was awarded in 2015 and was set to end later this month. It was, however, terminated earlier this year.

Another company replaced DataOpt without the tender being advertised. The municipality told City Press that this was because it was a month-to-month contract, but that it would be advertised later this month.

The municipality, in turn, alleges that DataOpt illegally extended the scope of its work, with the help of some municipal employees.

It was only when DataOpt was found out that it raised the allegations of bribery, the municipality claims.

Gabede said DataOpt was awarded one portion of a managed print services contract, under strict conditions that both portions should not be awarded to the same company. However, DataOpt eventually rendered services for both after the appointed company pulled out.

“There were irregularities in the implementation of the contract,” Gabede said.

The two portions, A and B, were for the provision of software and hardware, respectively. DataOpt was awarded the B slice.

Gabede said normal practice dictated that if the second company pulled out, the municipality should have awarded the A portion to the second best bidder. Failing this, they needed to readvertise the software portion of the contract. This did not happen and it was allegedly offered to DataOpt.

“We discovered that some municipal officials, without submitting the item through the bid committee, decided to unlawfully increase the scope of the award by giving DataOpt portion A as well.”

He said the intention behind dividing the work into these two sections was to ensure good governance.

“The officials in question had no authority to award the software portion to DataOpt.”

Gabede alleged that there were irregularities with DataOpt’s pricing. It allegedly charged for machines that did not exist, resulting in overbilling of more than R5 million.

Gabede said the municipality had contracted an independent forensic investigator to look into the matter.

The probe was being concluded and the results would be submitted on Tuesday.

Gabede said DataOpt had made the bribery allegations for the first time in a court application. He said the court dismissed this application.

“The city has no employee by the name of Mr A Budeli. DataOpt never mentioned the issue of the bribe to the city manager when they had a meeting in October 2017.”

Gabede said DataOpt was making “baseless and absurd” allegations to strong-arm the city into agreeing to let it continue servicing the unlawfully awarded software portion of the contract.

Budeli said he was friends with Mashazi and other senior municipal officials. He confirmed the meetings took place and said DataOpt’s own project manager, Mike Malema, facilitated them. He denied that bribes were solicited or that he called Mashazi.

“I didn’t even know why I was called when I went to the first meeting. I found out that these guys were about to be investigated and may lose the contract. Mashazi is just my friend on a social level and I don’t involve her in any other thing,” Budeli said.

He did not know that Rapodile would be present at the second meeting, he said.

Malema corroborated Budeli’s version and said he facilitated the meetings. He said he thought the meetings were about technical issues and not payments.

“I was surprised when Thabo raise the issue of payment. Budeli was very angry with me, saying I sold him out,” Malema said.

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sa economy  |  corruption  |  bribes  |  tenders  |  municipalities
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