RAL rejects claims of spending R1.6 billion in irregular tenders

POLOKWANE – The Road Agency Limpopo (RAL), in a press release this week, noted with great disappointment ‘an uninformed and clumsy scattergun approach by Mr Langa Bodlani – a Democratic Alliance MPL in the Limpopo Legislature on his reading of the Auditor-General report on the agency’s financial statements and other legal and regulatory requirements for the 2016/17 financial year’.

Langa Bodlani, MPL and DA Spokesperson on Public Works, earlier this week through a press release, communicated that, according to the Auditor-General (AG) report for the 2016/17 financial year, RAL had incurred R1,6 billion in irregular tenders.

Bodlani called on provincial government to establish an independent forensic audit on the tender irregularities in all the departments, and to ensure that criminal cases are opened against the implicated officials to ensure the backlog of road infrastructure is addressed urgently.

“It is unfair to those worthy businesses who lose the opportunity to be awarded tenders due to ANC ‘tenderpreneurs’ who are successfully appointed regardless of their application,” he said.

“The parastatal falls under the jurisdiction of Public Works, led by MEC Jerry Ndou, who also serves as the Leader of the Government Business, and who must ensure that all committee report’s recommendations are implemented by the Executive but in this case, he failed in this role,” Bodlani added.

Maropeng Manyathela, Head of Communications at RAL, replied to the DA allegations, saying the amount mentioned was “historical”.

“The irregular expenditure referred to (R1,7 billion) is an historical amount and the irregular expenditure incurred in 2016/17 amounts to R135 million.”

He said the AG’s annual assessment of RAL over the past three financial years revealed that RAL has moved from an adverse (2014/5) to a qualified (2015/16) to an unqualified (2016/17) audit report.

“Mr Langa Bodlani is clearly mischievous and intended to cast aspersions on improved performance of the agency over the past three years, and the people of Limpopo at large.”

The turnaround strategy since the agency was returned from administration, is bearing fruit, he said, “RAL recognises the pressure and challenges it faces in its mandate to deliver a new, tarred quality road network while maintaining the current road infrastructure”.

“With the AG noting irregular expenditure, RAL has reviewed the current structure of the financial unit and taken the following steps to address internal control deficiencies by supporting its financial management systems, particularly in finance and asset management by appointing a procurement specialist: Supply Chain Management to improve the procurement of infrastructure and the appointment of more Chartered Accountants.”

He added that, to put it into context of where the agency was three years ago to where it is going, the Limpopo road network is under immerse pressure from both cross-border and domestic traffic and needed R3 billion to address backlogs, which the national fiscus do not have.

Manyathela said Limpopo is the most rural province of the nine provinces and RAL itself acknowledged a backlog of 14,332 km that needs upgrades, repairs and maintenance as per current financial year estimates.

“The word ‘backlog’ is not a swear word and should not be used by opposition politicians in their scaremongering, especially read in context of the efforts by the agency and the provincial government to address this backlog amongst other trade-offs to deliver other services to the province,” he said.

Manyathela said Limpopo has the highest percentage of black Africans of the nine provinces.

“So, naturally they will dominate the economy and to suggest conspiracy theories to this obvious assimilation into their economy is an insult to the people of Limpopo and should be frowned at. RAL accepts that the road to financial health will be littered with potholes, and will not happen overnight.”

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Nelie Erasmus

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