More details emerge in Durban port tender irregularities

A construction tycoon who has been implicated in alleged tender irregularities related to a R3.6bn project aimed at lengthening and widening berths at the container terminal at the Port of Durban seems to have gone to ground.

This after Philani Mavundla, owner of PG Mavundla Engineering, was yesterday mentioned as one of two key figures in a Transnet tender deal gone wrong.

According to news reports Mavundla and a business partner Paolo Porcelli, the CEO of Italian construction company CMC di Ravenna, together formed a joint venture (JV) company called CMI Emtateni which won a Transnet tender earlier this year.

The tender makes up more than 50% of a R7bn upgrade to facilitate new-generation cargo carriers.

Mavundla and Porcelli together also head up a company called CMI Infrastructures, one of the entities mentioned in the formation of the JV that was awarded the tender.

Soon after winning the tender, CMI Emtateni’s hopes of receiving initial payment and proceeding with work on the project were dashed when Transnet received an objection from a tender competitor.

Subsequent to the complaints of irregularities and accusations that individuals involved in CMI Emtateni had no prior relevant experience and were “fronting”, forensic investigator Paul O’Sullivan presented a report on the matter to Transnet.

O’Sullivan’s co-investigator, Sarah-Jane Trent of Forensics for Justice (FFJ), said they had found that CMC di Ravenna had fallen on hard times in its home country and had filed for liquidation.

Verification thus far has confirmed that the company indeed appears to be going under, but FJJ’s allegations that the tender would have been a lifeline for Ravenna have been denied by attorneys acting on behalf of CMI Emtateni.

Subsequent to the O’Sullivan and FFJ report, Transnet has said they have opened a docket with the Director for Priority Crime Investigation, also known as the Hawks.

Amid swirling allegations of tender irregularities and BEE fronting, the JV’s partners have also denied that one of the biggest reasons why they shouldn’t have been awarded the tender is because they collectively owe SA Revenue Service around R100m in outstanding debts.

Most of the debt is reportedly Mavundla’s.

He has since become very difficult to contact.

It’s also not the first time Mavundla has made headlines.

And when he does, it’s often for controversial reasons.

Once a mayor of Greytown he famously curried favour with the media and locals when he donated his entire annual salary to charity.

Before then, in 2005, he was a leading figure in the establishment of a trust to aid Jacob Zuma as the law closed in on him.

And when the former president needed debt related to his notorious Nkandla homestead paid, Mavundla willingly offered to foot the bill.

A well-connected entrepreneur and self-styled self-made man, Mavundla went from rags to riches after winning tenders for the King Shaka International Airport, and Sibaya Casino, to name but a few.

It’s not certain how Transnet intends to proceed with the widening of berths at the terminal.

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