Corruption watchdogs: Public has the right to know what happened to millions loaned to Paul Mashatile’s son-in-law for housing project that never happened

An investigation was launched to determine the circumstances around loans totalling R24.9 million to Deputy President Paul Mashatile’s son-in-law, Nceba Nonkwelo's company, Nonkwelo Investments, for a student accommodation project.

The Gauteng Partnership Fund (GPF) claims that it could not locate documents pertaining to multimillion-rand housing loans it granted to Deputy President Paul Mashatile’s son-in-law Nceba Nonkwelo’s company was a “feeble excuse” and could be seen as a “deliberate cover-up”.

The anti-corruption advocacy group, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), and political analyst Professor Sipho Seepe weighed in on the recent investigation report released by Human Settlements MEC Lebogang Maile.

The investigation was launched to determine the circumstances around loans totalling R24.9 million to Nonkwelo’s company, Nonkwelo Investments, for a student accommodation project that never saw the light of day.

The investigators stated in the report, released on Monday, that they could not make conclusive findings about whether proper procedures, policies, laws, and regulations were followed “due to outstanding material evidentiary documents”, which the GPF could not locate.

It further stated that the GPF entered into a settlement agreement with Nonkwelo Investments to recover the monies from the loans but did not delve further into the details of this settlement agreement.

“It is very problematic to have documents missing in issues of tenders or government spending, especially when dealing with the public’s money; it can be seen as a deliberate cover-up,” said Seepe.

He said, with regards to the unseen settlement agreement, the public had the right to know.

“If nothing is amiss, then details of the settlement should be made public. Then the public can measure what has or has not been done.

“Right now, we need more confidence. It could be nothing, but the government needs to take the public into its confidence by being transparent,” Seepe added.

Outa CEO Wayne Duvenage said transparency was the enemy of corruption, and the GPF’s claims that it could not locate some documents were “the weakest excuse ”.

Speaking to IOL, Duvenage said if a project funded by public money had not been done or completed, the public had the right to know.

“There should be electronic copies of the documents, with both the GPF and the developer. If all documents are missing, then in the court of public opinion, the GPF was derelict in their duties,” he said.

The loans were granted to Nonkwelo between 2013 and 2017 for the construction of student accommodation in Highlands, Johannesburg. The project was never completed.

The investigation found that the change of scope from affordable housing to student accommodation was legally “uncertain”, that any approval of funding was irregular and “not in the best interest of the GPF”, and that since the project was no longer financially viable, the loan agreements as well as the project “ought to have been cancelled“.

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