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TSHWANE AFTER THE DA TAKEOVER

"We have launched programmes and mechanisms to save the City money. Chief among these are the strategic sourcing of goods, an open tender system, e-procurement systems, which are all, in one way or another, aimed at curbing leakages in the supply chain process and maladministration... Fraud cases have been instituted against corrupt officials. This is to avoid occurrences such as the notorious “shoe polish” debacle which saw millions of rand lost when goods were purchased at hugely inflated prices that otherwise could’ve been procured at wholesale rates."

Solly Msimanga, DA Executive Mayor, City of Tshwane, after 100 days in office on 12/12/2016

Robert Slaughter

Remember the Tshwane Metro’s larger-than-life chief storekeeper Robert Slaughter (nose205)? He with a love of tattoos, exotic cars and luxury holidays? After having been suspended for three months, Slaughter is apparently back on the job, seemingly cleared of all the nasty accusations Noseweek had levelled against him.

Slaughter had created and released purchase requisitions worth millions of rands for a significant number of orders that went to vendors who then charged the city exorbitant prices for whatever stock was ordered. One example: he created about 16,000 purchase requisitions for energy-saving light bulbs at R300 each, while they were available at Makro for R79 each.

Information about Tshwane’s spending spree under the previous ANC-run administration was leaked to Noseweek in the form of hundreds of pages of computer printouts detailing the purchases (nose203).

The new DA administration promised swift action. The scandalous over-pricing of goods ordered for the city’s warehouses has reduced. Newly leaked documents in Noseweek’s possession show, for example, that a batch of Kiwi shoe polish bought in February this year cost the city R14.60 a tin – less than half the earlier R30 price. It seems the shoe polish suddenly lasts much longer, as this was the first consignment of shoe polish ordered since August last year.                                                  

Last year’s leaked papers exposed wide-scale corruption, collusion, price- fixing, cover quotes and outright fraud. At the centre of it all was chief storekeeper Robert Slaughter, who had allegedly surrounded himself with several cartels and lived the high life.

Curiously, all the companies that Noseweek exposed are still on Tshwane Metro’s electronic vendor list. Despite the new administration’s forensic investigation into the matter it has not blacklisted Slaughter’s favoured vendor Le-Roy van Niekerk’s circle of companies or those where Zelde Snyman has a finger in the pie. She is the wife of Willie Snyman, a storekeeper in charge of one of several municipal warehouses under Slaughter’s control.

It seems none of these companies have received marching orders from Tshwane since Noseweek named and shamed them. So what has happened to Van Niekerk and Snyman’s multi-million-rand enterprises if they are no longer supplying their one and only client Tshwane Metro? Or have they perhaps re-registered as vendors under new company names?

Tshwane Mayor Solly Msimanga

Noseweek asked Tshwane Mayor Solly Msimanga’s office why Slaughter was back at work and why the companies had not been blacklisted as vendors. There was no response by the time Noseweek went to print. Yet in December the mayor’s office issued a press release saying “Msimanga, has taken swift action, as this will not be tolerated” by his administration. 

The media release also promised that Tshwane will “lay charges of corruption pursuant to section 12 of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act” and that “a couple of senior managers are likely to be charged for… dereliction of duty… in adhering to the Municipal Finance Management Act and Supply Chain Management practices”. It specifically mentioned that civil proceedings would be instituted “against those implicated so as to recover any and all monies from the identified service providers and their cohort who benefited unduly” and that Tshwane would “blacklist and remove the identified service providers and all their accomplices from the municipal database.”

The silence is telling. Meantime Noseweek has found three more groups of companies in the Slaughter network. For years the Burger and Maple families and a third grouping of three black-owned companies seem to have quoted and “cover quoted” (provided extra-high quotes so that the other slightly less-inflated one seems reasonable) for the same orders.

In the case of the Burger family the items ordered range from safety boots for the metro police, to ink cartridges, to repairs to the sewage system. The Maple family’s companies supplied inter alia combat shirts for the metro police, electricity meters and insect poison. One of the companies in the third grouping, Prime Select Deals Trading 14 CC, supplied items ranging from  rat poison, fly bait and shirts, to electricity meters.

Almost all the quotes and the subsequent orders came close to the magic cut-off amount of R30,000, the maximum amount for an order that does not have to go to tender. Whether  the quotes were for “six light masts at R4,995, or “45 pairs of safety boots at R666”, the bottom line was always a total just short of R30,000.

Smartryk Burger, a former Tshwane employee, is the sole owner of Alana Trading CC, while his wife, Lezette Burger, is the sole owner of Regin Trading CC. Their son Rynier owns Bravorox 13 CC. Between the three companies they had a turnover of just less than R2.5m in 2015/16 while using the same address in Queenswood, Pretoria, and often supplied cover quotes for the same product.

Ernest Maple owns Thumping Thing Trading 7 CC. His wife Portia owns A Great New Wave Trading 9, while their son Lyle owns Stunning Creations Trading 7 CC as well as Capital 7 Trading CC. In eight months the four companies turned over almost R3m while working from their home address in Eersterus, Pretoria.

The third grouping consists of Prime Select Deals Trading 14 CC, owned by Thapelo Shomolekae, whose address is given as Mohlakeng in Randfontein. Prime select alone had a turnover of R700,000 in 12 months. Imbalehnle Staffing & Promotions CC, owned by Kabelo Phiri; and Marole Trading CC, owned by Patrick Phiri, are the two other companies in the grouping. Shomolekae’s Facebook profile gives his employment as Marole Trading and states that he lives in Pretoria North.

Every order that was awarded to him was openly accompanied by cover quotes from one of the Maple and one of the Burger group of companies. There was no reply from the cellphone number given on the documentation he supplied to the municipality.

It is obvious that the ten companies in these three groups supply quotes and cover quotes for each other and that every order they have received since 2015 happened because there was collusion and price-fixing. Their total turnover was more than R6m in 12 months. Then add the millions made by the Van Niekerk and Snyman groupings to get the picture. Not bad for making a few phonecalls and arranging delivery by the company that actually won the tender on price but did not know the right people.

Almost all these quotes and orders went through the hands of Robert Slaughter. Since Noseweek exposed their close links last year Slaughter and the Van Niekerk and Snyman groups are no longer active on Facebook but Le-Roy van Niekerk is a Facebook friend of Smartryk Burger.

How closely the companies are working together became clear during a phone call to Rynier Burger, the registered owner of  Brovorox 13 CC. He mistakenly believed or just assumed he was talking to a Tshwane investigator, although that was never said when Noseweek called him.

“We all know each other,” he said. “We have to work together to get somewhere.” When asked if that was acceptable, he said he did not know. Nor did he seem to know why the quotes were always close to R30,000, saying he did not understand the insinuation because the quotes were accepted.

“Why not buy it yourself where you can get it cheaper?” Indeed. A question for the Tshwane administration.

“We buy a product and sell it at a profit, that’s how we make money,” he continued quite aggressively.

When asked whether someone at the Tshwane Metro has been looking the other way when given the exorbitant quotes, Burger said there wasn’t only one such person. “That whole place is corrupt and if you want to expose that you are threatened by senior officials. Or they block your vendor number and you get no business at all.”

He claimed the buyers help their friends with orders because they share the profit and said his father had been asked to pay a bribe but refused.

“You don’t understand, if you don’t deal with them you will never know what’s going on there.”

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