Mpumalanga legislature keeps corruption report secret

After spending almost R250 000 of taxpayers’ money, the Mpumalanga legislature has decided to keep secret the findings of a forensic investigation into allegations of corruption against its accounting officer.

Following a Ziwaphi exposé that the Mpumalanga Legislature tried to force two companies into a joint venture for an IT tender, then Speaker of the legislature, Violet Siwela, instituted a forensic investigation into the allegations in 2018.

Two years later since the investigation, the legislature has not only failed to implement the findings, but has decided to keep the report secret. Malusi Mbatha who is the spokesperson of Legislature Speaker, Busi Shiba, flatly refused to make the findings known.

“As per the questions we can confirm that the report was finalised and recommendations were made. However it is not Legislature practice to distribute or give outcomes of internal reports to the media,” said Mbatha.

This is contrary to the adopted values of the Mpumalanga provincial legislature, one of which is openness, which they describe as transparency and accessibility. The investigation itself was triggered by Ziwaphi and later also published by other newspapers.

Ziwaphi has since made an application for access to the information in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act.

The investigation stemmed from an IT contract that the Legislature awarded to two companies, Sarafusion and Frugacode. It is unclear if Frugacode had tendered for the contract, however, the appointment letter bore the names of the two companies into a so-called joint venture.

The owner of Sarafusion, only known as B Musaruwa, refused to accept the appointment because he had not entered into a joint venture with any company.

“He refused to accept the contract when he was told that invoices would be issued in the name of Frugacode, and that the banking details that would be used would be those of Frugacode,” said a source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“He asked what Frugacode was bringing to the table, but the legislature could not budge, and when he insisted on getting answers, he was reminded that his tender price was R15 million, and that his fee would be increased to R20 million,” said the source.

Following the refusal to accept the contract, Sarafusion which used to get short term contracts with the legislature, had all their contracts with the legislature terminated, and Frugacode was appointed. The Auditor-General found that the appointment of Frugacode was irregular.

After the Ziwaphi enquiry, Siwela ordered a forensic investigation.

“We note your media query, and as the Legislature we find it disturbing and shocking, as such alleged activities have no space in here. We have since instructed the Legal Section of the institution to immediately investigate the matter and accordingly advise the Legislature,” said Siwela in 2018.

She appointed a company called Nexus Forensic Services which they paid R249 613,23 at the conclusion of the investigation.

Sources within the legislature, who spoke on condition of anonymity, disclosed to Ziwaphi that the report was very damning, but the Legislature seemed to confuse the words such as outcomes, findings and allegations.

“The outcomes of this internal investigations (sic) found that there are allegations of some irregularities made in the awarding of contract. The legislature is dealing with the recommendations contained in the report,” Mbatha said.

What Mbatha seems to disregard is that the investigation was triggered by allegations, but after the investigation has been concluded, he says it also made allegations of irregularity instead of findings.

The Legislature’s confusion goes further, because while It says it was dealing with the recommendations for the past two years, it is still keeping Mwale in employment because he has an employment contract with the institution.

“Yes,  Mr Mwale, Secretary  to the Legislature is still an employee. There is still a valid contract of employment,” said Mbatha.

Mwale’s contract is ending in May this year, and it is unclear if the legislature would have finished with “dealing with the recommendations” or whether it would extend the contract for another five years.

This was Mwale’s second stint as the Secretary of the legislature after his contract was not renewed in 2006.

Mwale was deployed to the Mpumalanga provincial legislature in 1998 following the corruption by then Deputy Speaker of the legislature, Cynthia Maropeng and officials. They served jail terms after they were found guilty of stealing ANC constituency money.

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