The Democratic Alliance (DA) has described Minister of Water and Sanitation and Human Settlements Lindiwe Sisulu’s decision to appoint an investigator into alleged corruption and maladministration in the Amatola and Lepelle Water boards “a smoke and mirrors diversion” and “a gross conflict of interest”.
During a media briefing on Wednesday, Sisulu promised to push back against the alleged corruption in her office and department.
DA MP Emma Powell said Sisulu’s briefing was only an attempt by her spokesperson to distract the public from her “involvement”.
“Minister Sisulu’s briefing today was a deliberate attempt by her spin doctors to obscure serious, criminal claims faced by the minster with specific reference to alleged tender meddling at Amatola and Lepelle Water boards,” she said.
Powell said the minister’s announcement that she had personally appointed advocate Terry Motau and other investigators to look into maladministration and corruption within her department and the two boards was “not only a smoke and mirrors diversion, but a gross conflict of interest”.
She said it was important to note that Motau was previously hired in 2016 by Sisulu’s predecessor, “Bosasa braai pack” Nomvula Mokonyane, to lead a similar investigation into many of the same cases the minister spoke of during the briefing.
“Mokonyane committed to make the findings of that ‘review’ public once it was concluded and, years later, many of those investigations are still with law enforcement agencies,” the MP said.
Powell said Sisulu further noted that Motau would oversee an investigation into the Amatola and Lepelle Northern Water boards, despite the minister having already directly appointed two alternative investigating firms to look into the boards’ activities.
“It is outrageous that the same politician embroiled in claims of tender meddling feels it fit to directly appoint the firms responsible for the investigation,” she said
She said the DA would release a separate statement regarding the alternative investigating firms by the end of the week.
“Importantly, the DA has now taken a decision to make public information regarding the situation at Amatola and Lepelle Northern Water boards, and how claims by both CEOs directly implicate the minister in potentially serious allegations of procurement meddling,” she concluded.
On the appointment of Motau, Sisulu said she wanted priority to be given to all allegations facing water boards and senior managers of the department of water and sanitation.
“I received a report that more than R16 billion worth of projects have been issued irregularly, including blanket corruption and fraud by officials, to an extent of awarding tenders to themselves and close relatives,” Sisulu said.
Last week, AmaBhungane reported the chief executives of both Amatola Water and Lepelle Northern Water claimed they were being targeted because they were standing in the way of efforts to manipulate tenders and appoint a well-connected company for drought relief programmes.
At the heart of the accusations is Mphumzi Mdekazi, a close confidant and adviser to Sisulu, Amatola Water chief executive Vuyo Zitumane and her Lepelle Northern Water counterpart Phineas Legodi.
Zitumane and Legodi, who were placed on “precautionary suspension”, both stated in affidavits that Mdekazi and Sisulu’s department had tried to pressure them into using a technology called sand water abstraction, to extract water from sandy riverbeds.
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(Compiled by Molefe Seeletsa)