FREE STATE, South Africa – A former director-general in the national department of housing has become the seventh suspect in the asbestos scandal to be arrested, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said on Thursday.
The suspect handed himself over to authorities in Durban on Thursday morning, NPA spokesman Sipho Ngwenya said.
This follows the arrest of six people, among them more former government officials, in connection with a deeply flawed asbestos audit in the Free State that resulted in the wastage of more than R200 million in public funds.
The arrests flow from a probe by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) that began in 2019, but the scandal has in recent weeks made headlines as the Zondo Commission of inquiry into state capture delved into it as part of its hearings on malfeasance in the Free State province.
Ngwenya said all seven suspects would appear in the Bloemfontein magistrate’s court on Friday morning.
The charges against them include fraud, theft, corruption and breaching the Public Finance Management Act.
The contract was awarded by the Free State department of human settlements in 2014 to a joint venture between Blackhead Consulting and Diamond Hill Trading to perform an audit and assessment of houses with asbestos roofing.
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has found only R21 million was spent on the actual audit. Not a single asbestos roof was removed and replaced.
She confirmed that although the Auditor-General found in July 2015 the contract was irregular, the provincial department proceeded to hand over a further R139 million to the contractors.
The Johannesburg offices of Blackhead Consulting were raided this week amid the arrests, which were carried out by the Hawks.