Former Free State MEC for human settlements Mosebenzi Zwane on Friday conceded that the appointment of contractors outside an open tender process for the R1.4bn housing project in 2010 was wrong.
However, the blame cannot be placed at his door because the plan was given a go-ahead by the then provincial executive council (exco) led by premier Ace Magashule, he said.
Zwane appeared before the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture to be grilled about his role in the controversial project to build RDP houses.
Upon the conditional allocation in April 2010, the Free State human settlements department had started an open tender process inviting bidders.
But that process was abandoned apparently because the “tender period had expired”.
After this, an “illegal” process of handpicking contractors without a tender process was employed.
The process of handpicking companies to do the job included some that had been rejected during the failed open tender process.
According to Zwane, he was not the one who came up with the scheme, but rather the department officials led by then head of department Mpho Mokoena.
This is despite Mokoena having told a different story earlier this week, pointing the finger at Zwane who he accused of having compiled the list of companies himself.
The former MEC said he had raised concerns about the appointment of contractors outside an open tender process.
But in his version, Mokoena and his team assured him that such a process was allowed in terms of the Housing Act.
It was on this basis, he claimed, that he had agreed to the plan.
But Zwane admitted that until that point, he had never heard of the Housing Act.
He added that the appointment of service providers that had been disqualified during the abandoned tender process was also not his decision, but that of officials and was rubber-stamped by the exco.
“The exco agreed to this. When I implemented the plan, it was no longer a decision of one person but was endorsed by a collective which included all HoDs of all departments in the province.
“It did not dawn on me that there could be something untoward about a procedure adopted by the whole executive.”
Zwane continued pleading ignorance about many things that went wrong during the months of December 2010 and January 2011 when the project had attracted the attention of the parent national department.
At the time, it had become clear to the national department that the Free State department would be unable to spend the allocation.
On December 9, then-minister Tokyo Sexwale wrote to Zwane requesting a representation on why the department should not deduct more than R200m from the allocation to the Free State government and give it to better performing provinces.
Zwane could not recall whether such a representation was made but was confident that it was made.
“I agreed that the officials should respond as a matter of urgency. I think they did,” said Zwane.
Asked what they said in the submission to Sexwale, he did not know.
Zwane will return for further grilling next Tuesday.
By Mawande AmaShabalala – TimesLIVE