THE Roads Agency Limpopo (RAL) has accused disgruntled former employees of bad-mouthing the agency in collaboration with the DA in order to get back at the agency for acting against tender irregularities and misconduct.
It has partly blamed former supply chain management officials for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision to approve a Special Investigating Unit (SIU) probe, saying they had fabricated stories about RAL after they were subjected to internal disciplinary hearings for various acts of misconduct.
Spokesperson Maropeng Manyathela said the agency has been working hard to clean its image since the scandals that rocked it when departments in the province were placed under administration.
“Internally, the Agency has dismissed several senior officials in supply chain management, and some of those are, as it is within their right, are challenging those outcomes. RAL welcomes those legal avenues, from the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and the courts, as they are processes in reaching closure and finality in some of the matters so that the Agency can focus on its core mandate,” he said.
“However, it is worrying when desperate people under various guises are feeding opportunistic political parties’ rehashed information of historic irregular expenditure which predates the current leadership of the Agency. RAL will be appearing before the portfolio committee on Tuesday, 22 May 2018 as part of regular briefings to the Legislature.”
In a statement last week, the DA said “a whistle blower from RAL who approached the DA has alleged that RAL has overcommitted 2018/2019 METF budget by almost R900 million”.
The party said this was as a result of deviations not being authorised by management, variations not budgeted for, tenders being allocated without following proper procedures, and not notifying Treasury and the AG of variations.
Manyathela said morale and camaraderie has improved at the Agency since 2015, and the agency is led by a young, capable and competent team of professionals focused on one thing: service delivery to the people of Limpopo.
He said other allegations and innuendos against the executives and other managers currently in the employ of the RAL are being investigated by the Board and outcomes will be made public.
“To reiterate, no individual is bigger than the Agency, and RAL will welcome the outcome of an independent probe to improve internal controls as it continues to root out bad apples and other creative incidents of corruption that may have circumvented and compromised our internal supply management policies, including collusion and sharing of sensitive information with potential tender bidders,” he said.
The agency said it welcomed the proclamation giving effect to the SIU to investigate its tender processes as it comes from a painful past, where it was effectively put under administration by cabinet between 2011 and 2014. The Limpopo Department of Roads and Transport was one of the five provincial government departments affected by that watershed intervention.
Manyathela said despite that tainted history, since the appointment of the Board of Directors under the leadership of Matome Ralebipi in 2015, the intervention and commitment by the Board and executive management of the Agency, particularly to clean governance and supply chain has been commendable.
“The Agency has been receiving improved audit opinions from the Auditor- General of South Africa year after year since and is targeting a clean audit opinion for the financial year (2017/2018) under review. Given the fact that RAL is a leading service delivery road infrastructure Agency in Limpopo Province, naturally the battle for the share of its limited financial resources or budget from stakeholders is understandable as it often advertises multimillion-rand projects,” he said.
“For the 2018/19 financial year, RAL has been allocated a budget of R988.9 million by the Limpopo Department of Public Works, Roads and Infrastructure for operational costs, and upgrading and maintenance of roads. To put it into context, at current estimates, RAL will need R160 billion to upgrade and maintain the entire road network in Limpopo. To this end, since 2015, RAL adopted a strategic partnership approach as part of the successful turnaround strategy for the Agency in which it is targeting to create partnerships with the private sector partners relevant or benefiting from the Limpopo Provincial road infrastructure network to help augment its constrained budgetary and financial resources for the upgrade and maintenance of Limpopo roads.”
In April, Ramaphosa made a proclamation giving permission to the SIU to investigate allegations made against the RAL. In the proclamation, Ramaphosa said the SIU must look into issues of serious maladministration in connection with the affairs of the agency.
“Improper or unlawful conduct by employees of the Agency, unlawful appropriation or expenditure of public money or property, unlawful, irregular or unapproved acquisitive act, transaction, measure or practice having bearing upon state property,” Ramaphosa said.
The SIU will also look into intentional or negligent loss of public money or damage to public property and the unlawful or improper conduct by any person, which has caused or may cause serious harm to the interests of the public or any category thereof which took place between January 1, 2009 and the date of publication of the proclamation.
The schedule into the proclamation is set to scrutinise the procurement of or contracting for goods, works or services by or on behalf of the agency and the payments made in respect of the work. It is alleged that the process was not fair, competitive, transparent, equitable or cost-effective to manuals, guidelines, and practice notes.
Manyathela said in the four years, R482m has been raised in this regard, mainly from the mining industry, and the figure is fast approaching the half a billion-rand milestone. He said this vote of confidence in the way the agency conducts business has resulted in increased contributions from the private sector in subsequent partnerships.