Desktop computers and laptops have been removed from the company that is part-owned by ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema as the authorities hone in on On-Point Engineers’ controversial tender deals.
However, according to staff, it was not the Hawks, the public protector any other public institution investigating the firm that carted away its equipment, but the owners of the Polokwane-based firm instead.
Earlier this month the Mail & Guardian revealed that Malema owns a stake in On-Point, which was started late in 2009. Not long after that it won a R52-million tender to administer a programme management unit at Limpopo’s department of roads and transport and through which it effectively oversees the department’s multibillion-rand budget over a period of three years.
In the past two years, a string of multimillion-rand deals have been awarded to associates of Malema and Lesiba Gwangwa, his business partner in On-Point. Some of the recipients of tenders over which On-Point has influence have allegedly also been forced to pay out hefty kickbacks to On-Point.
On Friday, public protector Thuli Madonsela said she would investigate the alleged racket. A day later the Hawks confirmed they would launch their own investigation.
On-Point staff reported to work on Monday to find that their desktop computers had been removed from the offices in Marshall Street, Polokwane. Later in the day they were told they were not allowed to take their laptops home, contrary to normal practice.
Staff members said Gwangwa had given the order.
“I do not speak to the media. You know that,” Gwangwa said when he was contacted for comment.
Malema, who acknowledges his family trust’s shareholding in On-Point, has insisted that he plays no part in its operations.
The M&G reported on August 19 that three sources connected to On-Point and one contracting company boss who has been locked into the tender kickbacks claim the deals are negotiated by Gwanga.
A memorandum of understanding obtained by the M&G outlines that the purpose is “to establish a working arrangement between On-Point” and the company in question “in order to pursue and exploit opportunities that may be available in the market”.
It then states: “The parties hereby agree that they will be working on the following [deleted to protect the company’s identity] projects for the Limpopo department of roads and transport” and subsequently lists a portfolio of works worth millions.
The memorandum gives a formula for splitting the income, which appears to give the lion’s share to On-Point. The fees for the planning and design stages would go to On-Point, while the contractor would get “all fees for the construction stages”.
The offer that was on the table related to construction work that, the M&G has calculated from related documentation, was valued at more than R70-million. From this amount, On-Point and the contracting company in question would have shared the “professional fees” of more than R10-million.
The memorandum contains strong secrecy clauses, barring either party from disclosing “terms and conditions of this MoU and any and all information about the other party”.
A second contracting company boss has told the M&G he signed a similar memorandum with On-Point.
“The practice [of negotiating kick-backs] is rife,” an On-Point insider insisted, and both contracting company bosses said it was an open secret in the industry.
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