Months after a deadly cholera outbreak killed people in Hammanskraal, President Cyril Ramaphosa has directed the Special Investigating Unit to probe a R290 million tender linked to businessman Edwin Sodi that failed to refurbish an essential waste treatment plant in Tshwane.

Ramaphosa signed the proclamation on 12 September, which directs the SIU to probe the R290 million tender, businesses linked to it and municipal officials involved in its awarding.

The proclamation states the investigation will probe “any unauthorised, irregular or fruitless and wasteful expenditure incurred by the Tshwane Municipality or the state in respect of tender number USD WS 30-2017/18 for the construction of phase 1 upgrades and urgent refurbishment at the Rooiwal Wastewater Treatment Works,” Ramaphosa’s signed proclamation stated.

The probe will stretch as far back as January 2018, according to the proclamation published by the Department of Justice and Correctional Services.

A recorded number of 23 people died because of the cholera outbreak, whose origins are still unknown, months after the Tshwane metro was thrust into the spotlight.

When the deaths occurred, the eyes of the public turned to why the Hammanskraal community had still lived without clean water for years despite political promises.

The Rooiwal Waste Treatment Plant became the centre of a desperate search for answers as its functioning remained inadequate to service water cleaning for large parts of Tshwane.

The facility remained derelict despite a R290 million tender issued and awarded to a joint venture linked to controversial businessman Edwin Sodi.

Sodi’s company, Blackhead Consulting, was part of a joint venture with two other companies – CMS and NJR – who were awarded a tender in October 2019 to upgrade the Rooiwal treatment plant.

They were paid R291 996 799 by the metro despite only completing 60% of the first phase of the upgrade.

A forensic probe by the City of Tshwane also concluded that the tender was awarded irregularly.

The terms of reference for the SIU are to investigate serious maladministration concerning the municipality’s affairs, improper and unlawful conduct by officials and employees, and illegal public money or property expenditure.

The proclamation stated that the investigation will include:

The unlawful, irregular approved acquisitive act, transactions or practise having bearing upon state property;

The intentional or negligent loss of public money or damage to public property; and

The unlawful or improper conduct by any person which has caused or may cause serious harm to the interest of the public.

The SIU will also be expected to recover losses suffered by the municipality from the businesses awarded the tender.

Ramaphosa had visited the treatment plant in June and expressed concern about the lack of upgrades to the plant despite millions paid to the appointed companies.

On Monday, Tshwane Mayor Cilliers Brink told News24 that he welcomed the proclamation and hailed it as the first step in getting justice.

Brink had already instructed that the companies awarded the tender, including Black Head Consulting, should be blacklisted from doing business with the City.

“The SIU investigation will make it possible to hold people responsible for tender irregularities to account and potentially to recover some money,” Brink said.

ActionSA said it viewed the proclamation as a victory.

The party’s Gauteng leader, Funzi Ngobeni, said: “The SIU is now obligated to investigate all allegations of irregular conduct by Tshwane Municipality employees or any person who has been awarded a tender unfairly and unlawfully utilised.”

Ngobeni said ActionSA welcomed this proclamation, because it will hold accountable anyone linked to corruption cases in Tshwane and who are guilty of offences such as maladministration, the intentional loss of public money.

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