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Aqua Transport and Plant Hire directors in court over R1,6m fraud

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Aqua Transport and Plant Hire (PTY) Ltd directors Donovan Naicker (49) and Elaine Naicker (51) appeared at the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday facing nine counts of fraud and one count of corruption.

The two are accused of defrauding the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport of over R1,6 million during the upgrade of a road in Nongoma, in northern KZN.

According to the charge sheet, another two accused, Vasuthevan Naicker (55) and Stephen Toffre Cahi (52) are in custody.

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Cahi was a resident engineer employed by RHDHV (Royal Haskoning) and was responsible for collecting time sheets from the foremen.

Aqua became one of the suppliers listed in the plant hire service providers panel on a departmental contract for the Department of Transport in KZN, in 2007.

The state alleged that the contract was intended to assist with road-related construction of an unplanned emergency, and short-term nature, when the department’s plant was not sufficient to perform the required work, the aim of which was to undertake road construction for a period not exceeding three months.

After Chris Hlabisa took over as head of department (HOD) for the KZN Department of Transport, he initiated a project called “The African Renaissance Road Upgrading Project”.

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Soon after, the department agreed with consultants Ibhongo civil engineers, and Project Managers CC (Bhongo) to assist the department with the construction, maintenance, and development of the provincial road network, alleged the state.

It alleged that Ibhongo formed a joint venture with Royal Haskoning and Sibusiso Nkosi was employed by the department as a senior general manager at Transport Infrastructure and Regional Services (TIRS). Nkosi was responsible for the construction, maintenance, and rehabilitation of roads in KZN, said the state.

The state alleged that lbhongo compiled a schedule of plant required for the upgrade of the road, and Aqua and Mphilisi Construction were appointed to supply the equipment.

It said two purchase orders were issued for plant hire for earthworks and drainage and later selected layer work for Aqua to supply the plant.

Nkosi, without an open bidding process further, appointed Aqua to upgrade road P49 from gravel to complete blacktop.

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During the upgrading of the P49 road, alleged the state, the foremen were responsible for the recording and keeping of plant hours and time sheets.

The state alleged that road construction costs, such as labour, security, safety officers, traffic control, and UlF costs, and a markup of 15% were not provided for.

Read also: R60m Mpumalanga licensing fraud suspects released on R15 000 bail

To cover the cost of road construction, Cahi, on behalf of Aqua, inflated the hours in the plant hire timesheets. The company paid certain amounts of money into Cahi’s bank account as a reward for inflating plant hire timesheets. These payments constituted unauthorised gratifications to Cahi, as he was in an employment relationship with Royal Haskoning and the KZN Department of Transport.

The state alleged that when the invoices were submitted to the department, without verifying the timesheets, they implied that information in the invoices, certificates of the progress payment and time sheets, was accurate.

After receiving the invoices and not knowing these invoices included costs of road construction, such as labour, security, safety officer, traffic control, and UIF costs and markup of 15%, the KZN Transport Department’s finance section authorised payments.

As a result, alleged the state, the department suffered actual financial prejudice in the amount of R1 679 068,93.

In court on Tuesday, Elaine and Donovan were each granted R10 000 bail and are due back in court on October 12.

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