De Lille orders probe after 3 VIP burials cost taxpayers R76m

pheladi mphahlele and sammy mashita crocia events

A total of R76m was paid out to Crocia events for handling the funerals of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and two other ANC struggle stalwarts in what the minister of Public Works and Instructure Patricia De Lille has called a blatant ‘rip off’ of the taxpayer’s money.

According to a report in the Sunday Times, De Lille has since instructed her officials to lay fraud charges against Crocia Events owner Pheladi Mphahlele and her husband Sammy Mashita who is the projects manager at Crocia Events.

Crocia allegedly inflated invoices for the funeral of Madikizela-Mandela, Zola Skweyiya and Billy Modise who all died in 2018.

However, Sammy Mashita, project manager of Crocia Events, which won a two-year tender in 2017 to provide infrastructure for all state funerals, insists that he saved the state money.

He said the department would have paid “R274m for services rendered” had his company not pointed out inefficiencies in the tender.

“This was because of the stupidity of those who compiled the tender specifications. They were more than willing to pay that amount even after we warned them of their glaring stupidity,” he told the Sunday Times this week.

“We actually saved the state huge sums of money because of our business conscience.

De Lille is now recommending to minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu that state funeral costs be capped.

  • For Madikizela-Mandela’s 10-day, R37m memorial and funeral, taxpayers paid R624,000 to hire 12 “air coolers”;
    R185,990 for pot plants, greenery and flowers;
    R18,000 for 300m of red ceremonial rope;
    R420,000 for 3,500 serviettes (hiring them at R60 per napkin per day);
    R170,000 for 1km of temporary fencing;
    R638,950 for carpets and draping, and
    R696,000 for orchestral equipment.
  • For Skweyiya’s R28.9m funeral at the Pretoria East Christian Revival Church, the state paid R3.1m to hire draping, carpets and AstroTurf;
    R50,000 for 500 serviettes; and
    R96,792 for plants, flowers and greenery.
  • The funeral of Modise, who was buried in Johannesburg’s West Park Cemetery, cost the state R10m.

The R76m figure also includes 15% in “management fees” loaded onto agreed quotes

The department’s probe also found that its own director-general, Sam Vukela — who initiated the investigation — approved the massive costs of Madikizela-Mandela and Skweyiya’s funerals.

“As the delegated authority, Vukela gave the final approval for the payment of two of the three funerals, which each exceeded R20m,” said De Lille’s spokesperson, Zara Nicholson. “The adverse findings of the investigation on the conduct of the officials apply to him equally.”

About Mashita’s claim that the department was prepared to pay him R274m for the funerals, the source said: “The department would never spend a quarter of a billion rand on the logistics supplies for three funerals. It’s an illusion. There are no facts behind this.”

Nicholson said: “A staggering level of ineptitude and negligence is apparent in the manner in which officials failed to protect the interests of the state … Crocia submitted inflated invoices which differed in some cases from its tender arrangements, with no Treasury approvals obtained.

“The quotation of the service provider exceeded final departmental specifications in two of the funerals.”

Nicholson said irregular and questionable payments to Crocia included R27.5m for items whose prices differed from the prices contracted for; R33.9m on items not contracted for; and R12.4m for goods delivered which were never requisitioned.

He said he could have worked out a deal with the department to lower costs through service-level agreements “but they were not interested even though they all knew the state could be paying less and that they were ripping themselves off”.

He dared De Lille to take him to court, saying he would prove that her officials originally agreed to pay Crocia R274m.

“They must not blame us for their stupidity and not putting out a proper tender. We got lucky and rode this luck. There was nothing sinister about how we got this tender and all invoices and signed contracts are legally binding,” he said, adding that his company was still conducting official funerals and other events for the state. Read full story on Sunday Times

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