Siyanda Ndlovu
Digital Journalist
3 minute read
27 May 2021
12:14 pm

R16.5k for a Gupta laptop? Magashule spent R4.6m on computers he may not have received

Siyanda Ndlovu

Outa has accused the former premier's office of failing to apply an appropriate procurement system back in 2014.

Ace Magashule. Picture: Gallo Images/Sowetan/Mduduzi Ndzingi

Suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule’s alleged corruption woes keep adding up after the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) raised further question marks about his spending when he was still premier of the Free State.

Outa in a statement this week said its investigation had brought to light that Magashule’s office was allegedly involved in tender procurement for 277 laptops worth R4.578 million in a deal dating back to 2014, but there was never any certainty that the laptops were “indeed received after payment was made”.

Outa has referred the matter to the National Prosecuting Authority for further investigations.

The organisation said that it uncovered the information through documents retrieved from the so-called Gupta Leaks.

“From the information retrieved it is evident that the computers were procured as a result of a pre-arrangement between Gupta-owned Sahara Computers and the office of the Free State premier,” said Advocate Stefanie Fick, the executive director of Outa’s Accountability Division.

Provisions of supply chain management (SCM) as well as the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) were completely ignored.

It said that the information was gleaned through investigations based on emails exchanged between Magashule’s office, Sahara computers and Sunbay Trading.

“In one instance, an email sent by Ashok Narayan (former advisor at the office of the premier and also a former employee of Sahara computers) to Kamal Vasram, advised that ‘the order’ would be finalised by the following day. It also stated that Vasram should forward the order to ‘Mr Ashu’ Chawla, the CEO of Sahara Computers. The email also contained the name of the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at office of the premier (one Mr Sello) and his cell number. Vasram later forwarded the mail to Chawla, adding that he ‘understands’ the request from Narayan.”

Fick said that the investigation uncovered that Sunbay issued a quotation to the office of the premier for 277 laptops on Sunday 17 April 2014.

He said the quotation, which was up to the value of R4.578 million, was addressed to the CFO, in which then acting head of SCM Ms MA Mokoena, at the office of the premier responded with a commitment letter to Sunbay “barely two weeks” later.

ALSO READ: Magashule ‘to be probed for further charges’

“A payment in the amount of R4,578,810.00 was made to Sunbay’s Standard Bank account. The payment advice was signed by Ms Mokoena. On 28 May 2014, payment of R4,263,030.00 was received from Sunbay into Sahara computers’ Absa bank account.”

Fick said there was no indication that an open bidding process was held during the  procurement process for the laptops.

“We did not find any advertisements or any indication that the laptops were indeed received.

“There is a possibility that Magashule’s office contravened the provisions of section 38 of the PFMA. They failed to apply an appropriate procurement system which is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost effective. Therefore, the procurement of the laptops was probably irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure and, as such, the provisions of Section 86 of the PFMA are applicable,” said Fick.

Magashule is out on R200,000 bail on allegations of corruption, fraud and money laundering involving a R255 million Free State asbestos audit project tender. He has been forced to step aside by the ANC national executive committee as a result, which he is now challenging in court.

In 2017, he said in an interview that he was no fan of the “tedious” laws governing how state officials are allowed to spend public money for service delivery and other causes.

ALSO READ: Ace Magashule would get rid of ‘tedious’ public finance laws if ‘I had my power’

He charged that the Public Finance Management Act was “stifling radical economic transformation”, of which he is a strong proponent.

Magashule told the Mail & Guardian that the PFMA has “long, tedious processes before you can actually achieve anything”. He added that, in his view, South Africa was trying to act too much like a “Western” country, instead of a developing country.

“If I had my power, I would just do things tomorrow,” he reportedly said.