South Africa: Corruption Accused Edwin Sodi's Company Still Not Blacklisted By Treasury

City of Tshwane asked for Blackhead Consulting to be put on the list of restricted suppliers more than two months ago

  • Blackhead Consulting is being probed by the Special Investigating Unit over incomplete upgrades and refurbishment to Tshwane's Rooiwal Waste Water Treatment Plant.
  • Rooiwal still releases about 150-million litres of untreated or partially treated sewage into the dam supplying Hammanskraal's drinking water.
  • The City of Tshwane on 1 February requested that National Treasury list Blackhead Consulting as a restricted supplier.
  • Blackhead Consulting's director Edwin Sodi is on trial for his involvement in the R255-million asbestos audit scandal in the Free State probed by the Zondo Commission.

National Treasury has yet to blacklist corruption accused Edwin Sodi's company, Blackhead Consulting, from doing business with the state. This is despite the City of Tshwane having asked treasury in February to do so. This follows Blackhead Consulting's failure to upgrade the City's Rooiwal Waste Water Treatment Works, contributing to the death of 29 people following a cholera outbreak in Hammanskraal.

Blackhead Consulting was part of a joint venture contracted in 2019 to upgrade Tswhane's Rooiwal Waste Water Treatment Works (WWTW). The R291-million job was discontinued in June 2022, with only 68% of the work completed, despite full payment having been made to the contractors, according to Corruption Watch.

While the exact source of the 2023 Hammanskraal cholera outbreak was not determined, the Rooiwal WWTW is a possible source. A Public Protector Report in October last year said residents were "not receiving clean water that is suitable for human consumption due to a partially functional and/or dysfunctional state and condition of the Rooiwal Waste Water Treatment Works".

Rooiwal is supposed to treat sewage before releasing it into the Apies River which flows into Leeukraal Dam, which supplies Hammanskraal's drinking water. Rooiwal continues to pollute the Apies River.

The Department of Water and Sanitation's continuously updated Integrated Regulatory Information System shows the 150-million litres of effluent it releases into the Apies River per day has a 0% compliance over the past three months for all four effluent quality indicators.

Edwin Sodi, director of Blackhead Consulting, has been linked to corruption in the Free State Department of Human Settlements. He was arrested by the Hawks in September 2020 in relation to a R255-million asbestos audit project which was scrutinised by the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture (the Zondo Commission). The trial is ongoing.

Following queries by Corruption Watch, Treasury's acting chief director for supply chain management governance, monitoring and compliance, Tinyiko Maluleke, in a letter on 8 April, revealed Sodi's company has still not been placed on Treasury's list of restricted suppliers and tender defaulters.

In this and an earlier letter to Corruption Watch's executive director Karam Singh, Maluleke confirmed the City of Tshwane had on 1 February requested Blackhead Consulting and its Rooiwal joint venture partner NJR Projects, along with their respective directors, be blacklisted.

National Treasury responded on 6 February, asking the City for supporting documents. These were supplied a week later.

Maluleke's latest letter of 8 April states that there were "some compliance issues concerning the blacklisting process" that were raised with the City. As a result, National Treasury "was not able to proceed with the restriction process".

Meanwhile, on 11 April, a City of Tshwane disciplinary hearing found the five senior officials accused of flouting tender processes for the Rooiwal WWTW upgrade were not guilty on three of the four charges they faced.

News24 quoted Tshwane spokesperson Selby Bokaba as saying the charges related to gross negligence and dereliction of duty leading to violation of various legislation, policies and codes of conduct.

"The guilty finding related to the technical evaluation of a belt presser whose specification was two-metre width and the implicated members of the Bid Evaluation Committee (BEC) assessed the winning bidder on 1.4-metre width," Bokaba was reported as saying. As a result, the officials face a one-month suspension of pay.

The Special Investigating Unit is still probing the procurement and contracts for the Phase 1 upgrades and refurbishment of Rooiwal WWTW.

Singh told GroundUp Corruption Watch had sent a query to the City of Tshwane on Wednesday, asking what the compliance issues raised by Treasury were. No response had been received by Friday.

Similarly, GroundUp received no response to queries sent on Thursday.

Singh said blacklisting of companies involved in irregular procurement and legislative violations should be a "straightforward administrative function". He said blacklisting enforced accountability "in a context where it is more challenging to pursue criminal prosecution or asset recovery".

"The fact that it is so cumbersome and not operating efficiently needs to be corrected", since it is an important tool in government's fight against corruption and was "relatively low-hanging fruit".

No response was received from National Treasury at the time of publication. If received, it shall be included.

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