My Case Against Vincent Ngubane

“All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia” – George Orwell. There is, also, a negative side….

The court case eM588/tm – N MOORE & ORS / MTN & eTHEKWINI MUNICIPALITY was an attempt to expose corruption. 

The fact that the application was dismissed on a technicality does not change the fact that the arrangement undertaken between eThekwini Head of Disaster Management Vincent Ngubane and MTN was corrupt.  Our loss in court does not change our determination to expose this corruption and get appropriate action taken against Vincent Ngubane and MTN.

As I took the responsibility for the case, I have also undertaken to continue with the investigation.  Up till now, Vincent Ngubane has taken no extra-legal action against me, because he has been confident that his corrupt activities in the municipality will not be successfully interrogated or investigated.  Previous investigations into his corrupt activities have been suppressed. 

However, things have changed.  Our government is being pressured into taking action against corrupt officials.  As whistleblowers and anti-corruption activists become emboldened, so the retaliation against them has increased. 

I have therefore been reliably informed that, in light of the corrupt edifice that Vincent Ngubane has built up in the Disaster Management Unit – and which is now being threatened by my exposures – criminal activity might be undertaken against me and I should take appropriate precautions. 

This is one of those precautions.  

I have lodged the results of my investigations with a number of people, and I have asked that if anything should happen to me that might disable me from continuing with these investigations, that those results must be delivered to an appropriate person. 

My Case Against Vincent Ngubane, eThekwini Head of Disaster Management

This is an ongoing investigation

Since I first heard Vincent Ngubane’s name, I was warned that he is a ‘warlord’ within the municipality, and rules through fear. He is a kingpin in protecting corrupt officials. His department is used for money-laundering of corrupt funds.

The Disaster Management Unit is the ideal vehicle for money-laundering and theft. Its purpose often requires emergency funding that can bypass regulations, and information can be suppressed with the excuse that transparency might compromise security. There have been multiple reports about misspending and under-performance in this department.

Here are the major issues for which I have forensic evidence:

Supply-chain fraud:

In 2015, Vincent Ngubane was investigated for supply-chain fraud totalling R50 million.

I spoke to the whistleblower. She had worked in Vincent’s department, and provided investigators with documentation that was conclusive. The paper-trail was so detailed that it could have formed the basis of a damning forensic investigation that should have led to criminal charges.

She was rapidly identified by her employer, resigned from the municipality, and went into hiding. She was in fear of her life. I have lost touch with her, but I know where the documents are that she delivered to the investigators. Nothing came of these revelations.

CCTV camera fraud:

In 2016, 2017 and 2018, Vincent Ngubane gave tenders totalling more than R400 million (almost half a billion rand) to Brandfin Trading 110 cc (a shelf company* with a single owner) for the installation of high-definition NPR (Number-Plate Recognition) cameras and software. The owner of the company, Alistair Mingay, lives in Pietermaritzburg and had almost no experience in this field. The company invented BBEE credentials and manufactured a company history in order to comply with tender requirements.

The BBEE credentials: on Brandfin’s website (which is a cut-and-paste off-the-shelf website with very little information, links that don’t work and references that are not verified) it claims that Brandfin’s BBEE credentials are based on funding an NGO that provides financial support to young black female entrepreneurs. In 2020 Brandfin’s lawyer admitted to me that they had not paid any money over to any entrepreneurs at all. The NGO exists on paper only, has no beneficiaries and has not disbursed any money.

Mingay also massively over-billed for equipment – one example is that he quoted R125 000 for a camera that can be bought off the shelf for R12 500. Despite these glaring discrepancies, Brandfin received tranches of money before installations began.

The project was never completed because Mingay effectively outsourced it to a Port Elizabeth-based company at a fraction of the tender cost. However, because of his inexperience and lack of knowledge, he briefed the company badly and the project collapsed. It is a complicated saga involving things like licence conditions and international repercussions. There were huge recriminations between Brandfin and the outsourced company, with threats of legal action on both sides. Each side accused the other side of misleading information and dealing in bad faith. Only a fraction of the cameras were installed and the entire project has never worked successfully.

This project was detailed in a forensic report that was given to the municipality in 2019, which claims that the entire contract was actually a money-laundering operation, to pay monies into the accounts of municipal officials. This report is currently in safe hands, but it is also in possession of the municipality itself. No action has been taken.

The DA in 2019 highlighted the fact that most of the cameras were not working. The cameras that do work, are not the sophisticated NPR ones. This situation has deteriorated to the point where it is now believed that none of the cameras work.

An employee of Brandfin told me that Mingay had gone from being a Nashua photo-copier salesman, with a relatively humble lifestyle, to owning several luxury sports cars (he would come to work in a different model every day). When I spoke to Mingay, he started the interview with cheerful willingness, but when he realised where my questions were heading he became hostile and hung up on me. He refused to take any further questions.

As a matter of comparison, I spoke to a security company with experience in the field of NPR systems, and they said that for R400 million they would have been able to carpet Durban with thousands of sophisticated security cameras, with ongoing monitoring which would include armed back-up.

More CCTV camera fraud:

In 2018, Vincent Ngubane gave another security-camera tender to a company – with a single owner once again – which was a wholly-owned subsidiary of EOH. The EOH subsidiary was based in Gauteng and had been created shortly before the tender was advertised. Shortly after the tender was awarded, parent company EOH was suspended from operating over allegations of massive fraud and corruption. Despite this, more than R200 million was paid over to this EOH subsidiary in a single day. A forensic auditor claimed in a report that this was money-laundering on a grand scale. This forensic report is in my possession and is also in the possession of the municipality.

MTN Cell Mast Fraud:

In 2016, Vincent Ngubane made a secret deal with MTN to install hundreds of cell masts in Durban without going through the regulatory processes. The process was defective from the start. A conservative estimate of the value of the cell masts is approximately R50 million: the value of MTN being able to leap ahead of its competitors by not complying with regulations is impossible to estimate. It is not known what incentive MTN offered to Ngubane to get him to participate in the elaborate cover-up.

What is known, is that Ngubane’s deputy, Mervyn Govender, started his own company on the side and obtained contracts to do private work for MTN using municipal employees and equipment. This project forms the basis of my blog, in which the entire saga is unpacked in detail.

The excuse for the roll-out of MTN cell-masts was as follows: the masts would be built by MTN, ‘donated’ to the municipality (apparently on the basis of a handshake), and then Brandfin and EOH would attach the security cameras. Because of the collapse of the Brandfin and EOH contracts, no security cameras were ever attached to these cell masts. These three interlinked and flawed contracts, therefore, have cost the city billions with no discernable result or benefit to residents.

*A shelf company is a pre-existing ’empty’ company that can be bought ‘off the shelf’ along with company credentials. Often, this is done to give the impression that the company has a track record.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Safrea or its members.

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