Daily News Front Page – First Edition 27 June 2013 (Massive corruption in housing)


Big KZN tender investigation

Durban – Forty-five KwaZulu-Natal businesses, including an engineering firm owned by a high-flying La Lucia businessman, are being probed for alleged multimillion-rand housing tender fraud.

On Tuesday, investigators from the Hawks, the Anti-Corruption Task Team (ACTT) and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) swooped on the businessman’s business premises in uMhlanga Rocks Drive.

But Leonard Balakisten, owner of the firm SLB Consulting, said on Wednesday night his hands were clean and that he did not fear the investigation.

Raids at other smaller businesses involved in the investigation started last week.

The search and seizure operation came after a four-year forensic audit and investigation by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Human Settlements.

A source said a search warrant for the uMhlanga raid was obtained by the ACTT in the Durban Magistrate’s Court on Monday.

Police seized documents, computers and other information related to Balakisten’s business operations. The documents were sealed in large plastic bags and taken to the ACTT headquarters in central Durban.

The source said the business was being probed for alleged government tender fraud involving a low-cost housing project in northern KZN, put out on tender by the Human Settlements Department.

Hawks spokesman, Captain Paul Ramaloko, confirmed the search and seizure operation.

“A case has been opened, but no charges have been brought against anyone at this stage. The seized computers and documents will be scrutinised before the docket is sent to the Directorate of Public Prosecutions for a decision.”

He said further details could not be disclosed at this stage.

Balakisten, who owns a plush home in La Lucia, a fleet of trucks and a string of luxury vehicles, including a special edition Lamborghini worth R7 million, said he had nothing to worry about because his business dealings were all above board.

“For the project in northern KwaZulu-Natal my company was not appointed directly by the Human Settlements Department; we were sub-contracted to supply material for the job,” he said.

“They need to look at the bigger fish in this project.”

Balakisten said he was convinced an audit of his company’s records would clear him of any wrongdoing.

“According to the search warrant, this is a broad-based investigation involving 45 businesses in KwaZulu-Natal. The details of the investigation are very vague at this stage. I myself am unsure about what they are probing or accusing my company of,” he said.

Balakisten said he had been doing work worth millions for the eThekwini Municipality and the Human Settlements Department for many years.

“I will wait for the investigation to take its course.”

Although the full version of the Manase Report on eThekwini Municipality’s dealings has not yet been released, a released summary points to most of the irregular expenditure – R428m out of the total of R532m identified by the auditor-general in the financial year ending June 30, 2011 – was housing-related.

Human Settlements MEC, Ravi Pillay, said on Wednesday that his department had been working with the SIU, ACTT, police and the provincial treasury over the past four years to fight fraud and corruption.

He said the department had conducted forensic investigations into tenders that had been awarded for low-cost housing projects in the province, which had yielded various findings and recommendations.

“Many were dealt with internally through departmental processes; others were referred for further criminal investigation by the relevant state agencies,” Pillay said.

“We are mindful that we cannot prejudge any matter. We will await the outcome of the investigation and any due process that may follow.”