Former Free State Human Settlements MEC, Mosebenzi Zwane, has continued to blame officials in the Free State Housing Department for the botched R1 billion 2010 housing project implemented during his tenure. Testifying for a third time at the State Capture Commission today, Zwane insisted that the scheme to pay suppliers R600 million in advance to build low-cost housing was not his brainchild.
He further said he believed that the officials had adequately checked the legalities of the scheme, in which no open-tender system was used, and ultimately little or no value was delivered to the department.
Zwane has told the commission that he simply asked officials how the department could help contractors with materials to fast-track the delivery of low-cost houses.
At the time, the department was in danger of losing its infrastructure grant allocation from the national government as it had spent very little of its budget for the 2010/2011 financial year.
Zwane denies that he gave an instruction that an advance payment system be adopted. “I did not propose, I asked a question why can’t we help the contractors in terms of materials as that issue was raised at the Welkom that is my story, I deny that I proposed.”
Zwane says he left the question of the legalities to the department’s officials who, he says, he had tasked to do research.
He says he believed when then, Head of Department Mpho Mokoena signed off on the project in November 2010 that all legal issues had been checked and settled.
“At the time where I was, I had given the Head of Department and the people who know law to go and research on the concerns that were raised there and I thought as an oversight person I had done their work and when they came back with the document which is signed by the HOD I took it for granted that all the issues that were of concern in the meeting were addressed.”
He denied that he threatened Mokoena with losing his job if he did not sign off on the 2010 R1 billion housing project as claimed by the latter in earlier testimony.
“If he was so afraid of me he would have listened to me even when I said he should not go on holiday. It’s on record that he did go on holiday and I left him in that department when I left the department. I never dealt with him or did anything that was indicative of the fact that I was a monster in that department.”
Selection of contractors
Zwane also denied that he had anything to do with the selection of the list of 106 contractors to build low-cost houses. The contractors did not go through an open tender process in tendering for that specific project, and some had been disqualified in a process that had fallen apart earlier that year.
Zwane also told Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that he was told by officials that it was the norm to include contractors that already existed on the department’s database.
“I expressed a view I must say that why is that so, why can’t we every time when we have a project go through this process..open tender process. They said there is no time when we are not building houses in this department whether unfinished houses or new houses if you are going to be year after year going to be entering into this process, it takes time and you are not going to finish so this is what we are doing here. I then understood what they were saying.”
The former MEC has also disputed Mokoena’s evidence that he knew and favoured a number of the contractors selected, saying that if this was the case why did the HOD not challenge him using the prescripts of the Public Finance Management Act.
Former MEC Mosebenzi Zwane appears before the State Capture Commission: