By MICHELLE SOLOMON
MILLIONS of rands worth of assets belonging to a former Buffalo City Metro director and 16 others – many of whom stand accused of cheating the municipality out of some R11.8-million – have been provisionally frozen after a tender relating to the 2010 World Cup was investigated.
Ten of them, including former BCM community services director Wendy Maqekeza-Galada and former BCM senior manager Simphiwe Gwane, have been charged in the East London Magistrate’s court with fraud, corruption and money- laundering after a syndicate of BCM municipal employees and others allegedly cheated the municipality of R11.8-million.
Maqekeza-Galada has been named as the criminal mastermind behind the case.
BCM issued a multimillion-rand “beautification” tender before the 2010 Soccer World Cup. The syndicate successfully bid for the tender, having set up false businesses. No work was ever delivered on the project – which was nevertheless fully paid for.
Maqekeza-Galada is currently serving four years in prison for unrelated fraud. She and several other co-accused, including Gwane, has had to surrender all assets to a curator pending the outcome of criminal proceedings.
Court papers hint that these same assets may be confiscated in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act in the event of a criminal conviction. A provisional motion freezing the assets and bank accounts of the defendants was granted in the Grahamstown High Court.
In an affidavit included in court documents, national deputy director of public prosecutions Willie Kingsley said the two had abused their positions as managers “by flouting tender procedures to favour certain service providers – some of which had not even bid for the tenders”.
“…[Maqekeza-Galada] hijacked the process from the beginning in that while the supply chain management staff was busy listing companies that made bids, [she] demanded that the boxes be removed to her office,” Kingsley said.
“When staff protested that what she was doing was not according to procedure, she intimidated them into submission.”
Kingsley said Maqekeza-Galada then assumed the powers of BCM’s supply chain management department head as well as the stores department “in order to corruptly favour her acquaintances and to ensure that she also benefited”.
Gwane also pressured BCM administration staff into rushing payments. He himself was paid R80000 by one of the contractors “as a result of his unlawful interference”, Kingsley said.
Additionally, the two bypassed the tender process and asked for a deviation from the original tender of R2-million to R4-million.
“The basis of the deviation was a misrepresentation as it was stated that it was ‘hazardous work and an emergency that threatened lives and livelihoods of the communities’,” Kingsley said.
Kingsley said Maqekeza-Galada’s domestic worker, Linda Mkoko, who is also named as a defendant, initially owned a service provider, Mawubuye Umzantsi Trading and Projects.
However, Kingsley said Mkoko claimed Maqekeza-Galada had taken her identity document purportedly to register her as an employee at the labour department. Instead she had registered the company in her name.
Maqekeza-Galada later re-registered the company in her own name and drew R200000 from the Mawubuye Umzantsi account.
Six of the accused were arrested during a sting operation in December last year.
Last year Maqekeza-Galada was convicted of defrauding the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) of R350000 in an unrelated fraud and sentenced to six years’ jail, with two years suspended.
The former director was also named in a 2008 forensic report on irregularities involving the awarding of a R28-million waste management tender. She quit her job during the investigation, but was arrested by the Hawks and charged with fraud for the ECDC fraud case as she walked out of the East London Magistrate’s Court.
Maqekeza-Galada was investigated for failing to declare her interest in at least three companies that bid for the BCM waste management tender. — Additional reporting by Adrienne Carlisle
Originally published by the Daily Dispatch.