The net is closing for those implicated in the disappearance of funds in the R3.5 billion Giyani water project in Limpopo, following a raid at the Lepelle Northern Water Board by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) yesterday.
Lepelle is a state-owned utility of the national department of water and sanitation. The agency is responsible for bulk water supply in Limpopo’s four regions, Sekhukhune, Peter Mokaba, Vhembe and Mopani.
Business was disrupted yesterday at the agency’s headquarters in Landros Mare Street in Polokwane. Armed with a court order from the Limpopo High Court in Polokwane, SIU officers searched the offices for documents linked to suspected fraud committed during the awarding of the multibillion-rand Giyani water project.
The project was awarded after a visit by former president Jacob Zuma to Giyani, when angry residents said the only waste water treatment plant in the area was spilling waste into the Giyani River, killing people.
The project started in August 2016 with the sole aim of supplying water to 55 villages. In October last year, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni described the project as a cesspool of corruption after its initial budget of just over R500 million escalated to over R3.5 billion, but residents were still without a drop of water.
“We have asked the agency to furnish us with specific documents, which would then help in our investigations. But it seems our requests have always fallen on deaf ears,” said SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago yesterday. “That is why today we are here to finalise our investigations.”
Conducting a presentation to parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) in November last year, the SIU said its investigations on the project revealed that the tender was irregularly awarded.
The SIU also told Scopa that prices for drilling a borehole at the project cost between R1.2 million and R1.4 million, including a water treatment plant. According to the SIU, the normal price for installing a similar borehole was about R100,000 and the price for a treatment plant was between R195,000 and R295,000.
The DA in Limpopo welcomed the raid by the SIU.