South Africa: One more suspect nabbed in the R255 million asbestos corruption case

The Hawks arrested one more suspect in KwaZulu-Natal after he handed himself over at a KwaZulu-Natal police station yesterday afternoon in connection with the 2014 Free State Asbestos Project bringing the total number of nabbed suspects to seven.

Among the arrested are senior government officials and businessmen as well as five companies. The suspects are facing over 60 charges encompassing corruption, fraud, money laundering in contravention of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act (POCA) as well as Contravention of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).

The detentions stem from a joint investigation by the Free State Serious Corruption Investigation, Special Investigating Unit (SIU), and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). This followed a referral from the SIU under Proclamation R39 of 2019, which led to the subsequent criminal investigation by the Hawks who worked closely with the NPA and its various units.

The allegations came after fraudulently granting of a contract through a procurement process done in a shady manner. In addition, certain public officials received gratification from the contracted company and/or an individual amounting to several counts of corruption.

The contract was meant to identify and remove asbestos roofs in the Free State province but there was an oversight on due diligence process before participating in the contract.

It is alleged that the Provincial Department created an impression that they participated in a contract concluded by the Gauteng Human Settlement Department while the services were not the same as indicated in the existing contract and also the price was inflated in contravention of Treasury regulations.

During the period, the department incurred unauthorised, irregular or fruitless and wasteful expenditure worth over R255 million.

The suspects are expected to appear in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on Friday.

Liberty Pazvakawambwa

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