MNS, Gautrain and toll roads
Throughout the Resolve Group investigation – based on unfounded allegations levelled against me by Mr Ignatius Jacobs, the MEC responsible for transport at the time – and the subsequent disciplinary enquiry I had to go through, a disproportionate amount of energy and time was focused on Mncedisi Ndlovu Sedumedi Attorneys (MNS).
I have come to the conclusion that the MEC was uncomfortable with the output of the work I had assigned to this particular firm. I have also come to the conclusion that the MEC was not interested in sound advice from me as the Accounting Officer.
The MEC had hoped that I would “read his mind” and provide him with the kind of advice that would sit comfortably with his intended objectives. Throughout my time as a senior officer of government, I have never relied on the proverbial thumbsuck for advice – I preferred to provide well-researched advice at all times.
Transparent and above board
Through various processes that were transparent and above board, MNS was appointed to perform various assignments. Over a period of time, MNS had built credible expertise in the field of transport management. MNS has, inter alia, undertaken and completed the following work for the Gauteng Department of Public Transport, Roads and Works:
- The design of the Strategic Public Transport Network for Gauteng;
- Performing a due diligence of the Sanral Freeway Improvement Scheme;
- Compiling audit reports for the Select Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa);
- Providing various legal opinions to the department’s public-private partnerships;
- Perusing and analysing the Gautrain Concession Agreement and providing advice to the Department on this agreement; and
- Providing project management for the introduction of an integrated fare management system.
It was therefore misleading for the MEC to disparagingly suggest that the scope of work given to MNS was beyond its abilities. If the MEC had looked at the invoices making up the total payments that went to MNS, he would have realised that the bulk of the money paid went to various consultants, in particular to Dornier Consulting, which the MEC himself (in the body of his document alleging wrongdoing) has described as a credible international transport company.
It is also important to note that the MNS/Dornier relationship did not evolve organically – Dornier, along with New Africa Consulting (NAC), was imposed on MNS by the MEC himself. I was told MNS reluctantly agreed to subcontract work to Dornier out of fear that its refusal may upset the MEC. NAC was also subcontracted to PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) – which had been appointed unilaterally by the MEC to implement a “turnaround strategy” – and the principal of NAC, Mr Donavan Nadison, who is a close associate of the MEC, is a director of Dornier.
The MEC, in his haste to manufacture a scandal, completely ignored the fact that a simple glance at the invoices and payment certificates indicated that MNS was paid a small portion of the R65-miilion contained in his allegations.
I submitted to Peter Harris, who headed the Resolve Group investigation, that, had the MEC been motivated by a genuine desire to investigate wrongdoing, he would have realised that the bulk of the amount charged was in fact paid to Dornier, a company he described in his statement as “an expert transport consulting firm”. To my surprise, Mr Harris failed to genuinely investigate this matter.
In respect of the Gautrain project, Dornier was appointed as a subcontractor to MNS and not in its own right. The former MEC once again fabricated issues when he said in his statement containing allegations against me that Dornier was appointed in its own right. MNS, together with its subcontractors, Dornier, Napo and NAC, were appointed to perform an inspectorate function on behalf of the department.
The department at the time experienced problems with the independent certifier. There was also the added difficulty of a lack of capacity to verify the validity of the claims submitted by the Gautrain contractors, Bombela. It was against this background that the Gautrain Technical Committee (“GTC”) was set up to perform a temporary inspectorate function, with the MNS consortium, which included Dornier, NAC and Napo, providing capacity to the GTC.
The MNS consortium report on the Gauteng toll roads has been a matter of public record since its publication by the Saturday Star.