Former COO of facilities management company Bosasa Angelo Agrizzi prepares to give testimony at the commission into state capture in Parktown, Johannesburg. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/ALISTAIR RUSSELL
Former COO of facilities management company Bosasa Angelo Agrizzi prepares to give testimony at the commission into state capture in Parktown, Johannesburg. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/ALISTAIR RUSSELL

A former senior executive at Bosasa, a major beneficiary of state contracts, has detailed how the facilities management firm forked out millions of rand in bribes a month in order to secure tenders at mining companies and state institutions.

The corruption was at times as brazen as handing over grey plastic bags of money to officials. At other times it was insidious, because bribes took the form of braai packs, cufflinks and Cartier and Mont Blanc pens.

Former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi told the state capture inquiry on Wednesday that the firm would spend between R4m and R6m a month paying bribes.

This was all done with the approval of Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson, he testified.

Besides cash, the firm would dish out expensive gifts and grocery items to officials at state-owned entities such as Airports Company SA (Acsa) and the SA Post Office, as well as unionists at companies such as Sasol, he said.

Agrizzi was Watson’s right-hand man at Bosasa from 1999. He resigned in 2016.

This is the first time the commission, headed by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, has heard evidence about state capture not linked to the Guptas.

Bosasa, which was renamed African Global Operations, has been the beneficiary of multi-billion-rand contracts with the state and has been implicated in widespread allegations of corruption.

President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2018 admitted that a payment made on behalf of Watson into a trust account was used to fund his campaign to become president of the ANC, after first telling parliament the money was paid to his son Andile in terms of a valid consulting contract with Bosasa he had seen with his own eyes. The president later said the donation by Watson to his campaign had been made without his knowledge.

Agrizzi’s appearance at the commission was kept under wraps because he has received death threats. The commission is providing Agrizzi with protection and the threats were reported to the Hawks. Before presenting his evidence, Agrizzi said he was aware that he would be implicating himself in unlawful acts during his testimony.

He told the commission how Watson would be sitting with him in his office, and Bosasa directors would come and ask him for money in order to pay bribes.

Watson would then go to one of the eight walk-in safes at Bosasa and collect the money.

"Gavin would come back with a grey security bag … Everyone knew the money was for bribes," Agrizzi said. He said if they wanted money for anything other than a bribe, they would have gone to petty cash.

It was Agrizzi’s job to keep tabs on the money going out, which was recorded in what he called his black book. Agrizzi told the inquiry how it was tradition at Bosasa to put pressure on unions to implement stoppages at mines until catering tenders were awarded to it. When Bosasa was trying to secure a contract at Sasol, Chemical Energy Paper Printing Wood and Allied Workers Union general secretary Simon Mofokeng had provided information to Agrizzi and Watson.

"Mr Mofokeng said not to worry about the tender. He also gave information about Sasol pricing. He informed us about what the other bidders’ prices were," Agrizzi said.

Mofokeng was paid for his information with braai packs, cold drinks and grocery items.

For contracts at the SA Post Office, then CEO Maanda Manyatshe and head of security Siviwe Mapisa were given expensive gifts.

Agrizzi said Watson had told him that he was "looking after them and paying them".

The former Bosasa COO also testified that he had witnessed how bags of money were given to Acsa officials.

Besides the irregular awarding of tenders to Bosasa, Agrizzi is also expected to give shocking testimony about bribes paid to National Prosecuting Authority officials, and how he and Watson were given sensitive documents from the prosecuting authority by former SAA chair and close ally of former president Jacob Zuma, Dudu Myeni.

Sasol’s share price slumped 5% to R417.48 on Wednesday, the worst daily loss in two months, even as Brent crude prices edged higher.

quintalg@businesslive.co.za

 

Correction: 17 January 2019

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the former CEO of  SA Post Office is Mandla Manyatsi. It is in-fact Maanda Manyatshe.