EXCLUSIVE: Architect desperate to sever ties with 'Nkandla consultants'

A young architect is desperate to walk away from a company he started, all because he went into business with the so-called Nkandla consultants. Video: eNCA

JOHANNESBURG - A young architect is desperate to walk away from a company he started, all because he went into business with so-called Nkandla consultants.

Chukwuma Mtshali sold nearly half his practice to quantity surveyors, R&G Consultants, who were instrumental in determining the costs of the president’s Nkandla upgrades.

WATCH: Thuli Madonsela on her Nkandla report

Mtshali now wants out of the business partnership he started in 2012 with quantity surveyors, Dumisani Gqwaru and Patrick Rwexu.

He said that at the time, he had no clue that his new partners were involved in the infamous Nkandla project. 

Nellmapius

Mtshali’s company, Magalela Architects, is involved in a number of government projects, one of which is the 'future city' that the province’s Human Settlements Department is building in Nellmapius.

He believes his co-directors are acting unethically again -- this time on this multi-billion rand Gauteng housing project.

Mtshali discovered that a junior employee, Mcebisi Ndlovu, had operated illegally, in acquiring the work from another firm.

"I found out that the work was actually stolen from Mcebisi's previous employer, another fellow architect, and that is unethical. So I couldn't work on a project that was done by an architect without him ceding it to Magalela," he said.

Mtshali’s attempts to discpline the apprentice architect were blocked by his partners.

Not qualified

For Mtshali, Nellmapius was one of the many violations by Ndlovu, that his partners were willing to overlook. Now, the project is in serious jeopardy, with Mtshali, Magelela’s Principal Architect, no longer supervising the work.

Instead, Ndlovu is now claiming to be the registered architect on the project.

The SA Council for Architectural Professionals (Sacap), however, says Mcebisi Ndlovu is not a qualified architect yet, and Mtshali’s withdrawal from Magalela as Principal Architect, has effectively rendered the practice illegitimate.

"Candidate architects must work under the supervision of a registered architect. Therefore at that stage, that practise cannot be deemed as an architectural practise, because it does not have a principal architect working within it, and the major person signing off on the plans," said Sacap CEO, Marella O'Reilly.

"So until that is rectified, it no longer deemed as an architectural practise."

Blacklistings

Mtshali’s biggest worry now is that if Magalela Architects is sued for shoddy workmanship, he could be held personally liable.

The Gauteng Department of Human Settlements seems not to be aware of the controversy pertaining to architectural services at the site.

"I'm hearing [this issue]  for the first time," said the department's Keith Khoza.

"What happens in terms of the public service, once service providers have done something that is unethical, they get blacklisted, and once they are blacklisted, we'd not utilise them as a public service department," he said.

"Therefore, if there is a decision on that matter, certainly we would advise the main contractor to exclude anybody that has been blacklisted from doing business with government."

In its fight against corruption, National Treasury instructed Directors General to blacklist service providers who’ve abused public money.

READ: Nkandla upgrades were in line with constitution: Zuma

However, the Public Works Department, which was fleeced of more than R200-million during the Nkandla upgrades, has not blacklisted a single service provider.

One of those companies was R&G Consultants.

"You need evidence; you need grounds that are rational and reasonable for any department to blacklist a service provider," said Phillip Masilo, Public Works Special Legal Advisor.

"We have reports of State organs, SIU, Public Protector, the ministerial task-team, and none of those reports points to any act of fraud, corruption against R&G."

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU), which probed the Nkandla spending, and which found that architect, Minenhle Makhanya should be held responsible for increasing the scope of the Nkandla project, also said that a company like R&G Consultants, whose key role was to determine costs, should not be allowed to do business with government.

EXCLUSIVE: Nkandla architect wants to break his silence

It said it wouldn't be happy to know that they're still doing business with the State.

"If you look at the findings of the Special Investigating Unit, they directly indicate that the procurement of R&G Consultants was irregular, and the inflation in terms of the bill of quantities was inflated," said Nazreen Pandor of the SIU.

Liquidation

Chukwuma Mtshali’s main concern now is to distance himself from his controversial business partners. As a last resort, he filed to liquidate the practice, but again, his quantity surveyor partners blocked him.

The South Gauteng High Court is expected to deliver its verdict soon, on whether or not Magalela Architects should be liquidated.

* For more on this story, watch the full report compiled by eNCA Reporter, Xoli Mngambi, in the gallery above.

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