Suspended CEO says minister hired EWS irregularly
Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Lindiwe Sisulu allegedly flouted procurement processes in favour of Empowering Water Solutions (EWS) and, when she encountered resistance, appointed investigators to “deal” with a recalcitrant CEO.
The sensational claim by suspended Lepelle Northern Water (LNW) CEO Phineas Legodi is contained in an affidavit in which he adds that the company had come under severe pressure from Sisulu to give business to EWS – a charge Sisulu denies.
In a letter written by Sisulu to LNW’s acting chairperson NH Matsepe, dated September 20 last year and seen by Sunday World, Sisulu makes clear her satisfaction with EWS capabilities to address water shortages in Limpopo.
“I attended the recent symposium by the Water Research Council (WRC) and came across a technology used by EWS that I am very interested in and which promises from research done by the WRC, and can solve some of the problems in very difficult terrain,” Sisulu wrote.
“I would like for Lepelle Northern Water to demonstrate how this technology works on the ground and would like this to be trialled in Limpopo being one of our driest areas.”
Sisulu’s spokesperson McIntosh Polela said: “A letter was dispatched to the Lepelle Northern Water Board to consider testing the technology.”
He, however, denied the minister involved herself in procurement processes.
Sisulu’s letter was preceded by a meeting between her adviser Mphumzi Mdekazi, Legodi and EWS chairman Lungile Bomela that took place a month earlier. According to Legodi’s sworn affidavit alleging corruption against Mdekazi, Mdekazi introduced him to Bomela, who pitched the idea of working with Lepelle to provide water in the province.
Bomela’s affidavit confirms that a meeting between him, Legodi and Mdekazi did take place as per Legodi’s version.
However, Legodi alleges that Lepelle made it clear to Sisulu that the entity did not have money to procure the services of EWS and that the minister jumped the gun and hired EWS even before the company had presented its solution to Lepelle.
“… drought cannot be used as an excuse to breach supply chain management regulations, the Public Finance Management Act and other applicable regulations, and appoint entities and or an individual person known to certain people in positions of responsibility,” Legodi’s affidavit reads.
Sisulu again wrote to Matsepe in a letter dated October 29 last year, expressing her frustration with the slow implementation of her directive contained in the September letter. “In a meeting with the board of Lepelle Northern Water on 23 August 2019 and a letter of 20 September 2019, I urged the board to do everything in its power to ensure that water is provided to the 182 villages in Limpopo.
The board has had ample opportunity to respond on how they are responding to this crisis, but I received no joy,” Sisulu wrote.
“I have therefore instructed Empowering Water Solutions [Pty] Ltd to implement emergency procedures to provide water for some of the villages in dire stress…” Sisulu based her decision on section 73 (1) of the Water Services Act which says the minister may “contract with any person to perform any work which the minister is authorised to perform under this act”.
Bomela, in his affidavit, said there was nothing untoward in the company getting work to help Limpopo alleviate its water crisis.
Eight days after Sisulu informed Lepelle of the decision to contract EWS, she also appointed ORCA to investigate the financial affairs of Lepelle.
According to the terms of reference, the investigation would be limited to the financial years 2018/19 and 2019/2020 and be completed within three months from November 15 last year.
ORCA is headed by former Steinhoff board member Len Kornar. Legodi, in his affidavit, said ORCA’s appointment was in contravention of the supply chain management prescripts and the department’s own procurement protocols.
“It is my considered submission that the ORCA investigations is a continuation of a bane to either deal with me for my refusal/delay in appointing the service provider [EWS].”
Legodi also alleged that Konar bragged to him that he had known Sisulu for many years and used that to intimidate LNW’s employees. Polela said Sisulu knew many people, including Konar.
“Investigations into the financial affairs of the LNW were conducted due to the discrepancy between what Lepelle NWB, Treasury and the department indicate to be the financial position given allocation of resources.”