Advisor to Former MEC for Human Settlements Mosebenzi Zwane in the 2010 R1 billion housing project insists there were some positive aspects to the scheme. Mmbuso Tsoametsi who was the former Deputy Director-General in the Free State Local Government and Housing department says there were over 5 200 houses built and small contractors were capacitated.
Tsoametsi was testifying at the State Capture Commission.
The scheme however also saw R600 million unaccounted for and six junior officials lose their jobs.
Proceedings resumes, the next witness on the stand is Mr Mmuso Tsoametsi and he is ready to give his Free State R1 billion housing project related testimony before the commission.#StateCaptureInquiry
— State Capture Commission (@StateCaptureCom) September 28, 2020
Mmbuso Tsoametsi says he was tasked by then MEC Mosebenzi Zwane to do research on a so-called expenditure recovery plan to accelerate the delivery of houses and rapidly spend money allocated from the national government before the end of the financial year. The scheme saw material suppliers and contractors irregularly paid upfront to expedite the work. Tsometsi says he did not explore the legalities of the plan.
“When discussions are taking place and somebody says it is not in accordance with supply chain I assume chair that the CFO will then take the responsibility to then deal with issues of financial management. If the HOD had issues with legal service the opportunity that availed he could have requested the head of legal or requested the office of the premier to provide him. Myself I did not go to that level.”
The scheme resulted in an estimated R600 million unaccounted for and some contractors simply not building the houses allocated to them. However, he says there were positive aspects including the capacitation of many emerging contractors who did not have to go looking for capital from commercial banks and the building of approximately 5 200 units.
“It will be very important to check with the same contractors that were assisted that whether by doing this we were able to assist them to then start to be financially better by providing them with the material without having to …what I am saying Chair is that the impact in terms of units that were produced during that financial year that are contained in the annual report of that year indicates that on the ground there is completeness.”
Tsoametsi denied any knowledge of Zwane’s alleged strong-arm tactics to get former HOD Mpho Mokoena to sign off on documents linked to the scheme – which Mokoena said he knew were irregular. He did however admit to subcontracting to a contractor to build 500 houses but said he did not see any conflict of interest.
“This 500 project chair did not receive the advance so it did not benefit on the scheme we are talking about. The material that was bought there was bought from the resources that we provided not the resources from the scheme. So when I was asked the question do you see a conflict of interest in subcontracting to a contractor that has received work from the state, I then said I do not see a conflict of interest.”
In the video below Mosebenzi Zwane implicates Free State housing officials
Meanwhile, Free State Human Settlements Head Tim Mokhesi who also testified at the State Capture Commission on Monday says with hindsight he should not have entered into what he characterises as a commercial property investment with Director of Blackhead Consulting Edwin Sodi. Sodi was part of the service provider that received R230 million from the Free State Human Settlements for a 2014 project to assess and audit asbestos in low-cost houses.
“It was a commercial transaction. My trusteeship was declared. I had no intention of hiding that transaction. It is auditable or traceable and one wanted to keep it on that particular level so that you deal with it in case anything happens and I contributed substantially more in that particular transaction, but maybe in hindsight maybe I shouldn’t have.”
The State Capture Commission continues on Tuesday with Sodi expected to take the stand again and Zwane expected to make an application to postpone his testimony.