Mustek helps COJ in R6m ‘ghost’ computer probe

PC distributor Mustek is assisting the City of Johannesburg (COJ) in a case where the city paid R6-million for 500 desktop computers to a service provider but the PCs were never delivered to the municipality.

In a statement, COJ mayor Herman Mashaba says he was informed that the city paid R6 million for 500 desktop computers that were ordered by the Group Information Communication Technology (GICT) department in 2014 but they were never delivered.

Opposition party the Democratic Alliance took over COJ from the ANC in August 2016. Mashaba, who took over the reins from the ANC’s Parks Tau, has publicly announced he intends to rid the city of corruption, which he blames on the previous administration.

Tip-off

According to Mashaba, the Group Forensic and Investigation Service (GFIS) received a tip-off from a member of the public who is closely linked to the service provider, saying that while she was working at the company, the city placed an order for 500 desktop computers.

It’s not clear which desktop PCs the city purchased but at retailer Incredible Connection, they range from R5 000 to R18 000. In the R6 million deal, the city paid R12 000 per computer.

Mashaba explains the computers were paid for with the assistance of officials working for the city but never reached the city.

The service provider, which is based in the south of Johannesburg, provides office supplies such as desktop computers, laptops, printer cartridges and toners, to name a few, he says.

A search and seizure operation was conducted this week by the members of the Hawks and officials from GFIS at the offices of the service provider.

Mashaba explains that about 37 computers worth R750 000 belonging to the city were seized during a joint operation.

He explains it is alleged that after winning the tender to supply the computers, the service provider placed an order with PC distributor Mustek to do the city’s imaging on the computers.

This was standard procedure, says Mashaba. “But with this batch, it is alleged that when he received it from Mustek, the service provider and his specialists in the information technology filed to remove the city’s imaging. Serial numbers of the seized computers were removed.”

In a statement sent to ITWeb, Mustek says: “In terms of Mustek’s distribution model, Mustek on-sells its products to its approved dealers, who then on-sell to end-users and public sector customers.

“Accordingly, we cannot comment on what transpired between the service provider and the City of Johannesburg. However, we are assisting the City of Johannesburg with their investigation of this matter.”

Preliminary investigations
It is alleged that most of the computers were sold to other clients and the 37 seized were used by the service provider’s staff members, Mashaba says.

He points out that preliminary investigations into the matter revealed that a city official was paid R1 million by the service provider for securing the deal for it. The city official allegedly took one official working for the service provider to a shop in the south which sells building material and spent R30 000 as a token of appreciation to the official, he adds.

“I was also informed that the service provider colludes with one of our officials who steals printer cartridges from our stores and sells them to the service provider who then sells it back to the city. When the team arrived at the property, they found one employee removing serial numbers from the boxes of the cartridges which had names of other municipalities and government departments.”

The team also established that the service provider illegally connected electricity supply to the property. City Power officials were called in and they removed the meter.

“The GFIS is currently conducting a number of investigations into contracts entered with ICT suppliers. I want to eliminate corrupt elements throughout the city, including investigating illicit deals and contracts that were secured by the previous administration and this includes our technology space,” concludes Mashaba.

By Admire Moyo for ITWeb 

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