Fraud­ster in le­gal fees scan­dal at mu­nic­i­pal­ity

CityPress - - News - SIZWE SAMA YENDE sizwe.yende@city­press.co.za

A Lim­popo mu­nic­i­pal­ity that hired a con­victed fraud­ster is now pay­ing the price af­ter he al­legedly helped a law firm claim R1.4 mil­lion ex­tra for a R400 000 job.

The Greater Tu­batse Mu­nic­i­pal­ity in Burg­ers­fort gave Melusi Motha, a for­mer pros­e­cu­tor in the Mpumalanga town of Mid­del­burg, a job as a labour re­la­tions of­fi­cer soon af­ter he was re­leased on pa­role af­ter serv­ing 18 months of his five-year fraud sen­tence in 2008.

Motha was jailed af­ter be­ing con­victed of fraud and forgery while he was a pros­e­cu­tor at the Mid­del­burg Mag­is­trates’ Court.

A 2011 in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­port by the Lim­popo depart­ment of co­op­er­a­tive gov­er­nance and tra­di­tional affairs says Motha was ir­reg­u­larly ap­pointed at Greater Tu­batse af­ter his re­lease. His job was not ad­ver­tised and he was soon pro­moted to the po­si­tion of le­gal ser­vices man­ager – which he still holds – earn­ing him R731 000 a year.

Doc­u­ments re­veal Motha’s unit hired a Polok­wane law firm, whose name is known to City Press, to con­duct a foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tion into three of­fi­cials in 2013.

But the firm sub­con­tracted an­other firm, which charged R453 720 for their foren­sic au­dit in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Doc­u­ments re­veal the mu­nic­i­pal­ity then paid the law firm Motha had hired R1.4 mil­lion for the job, but the sub­con­tracted firm was never paid and suc­cess­fully sued the mu­nic­i­pal­ity for R614 214, plus in­ter­est.

Records of a coun­cil meet­ing on De­cem­ber 14 last year show the mu­nic­i­pal­ity is now ap­ply­ing for the court or­der to be re­scinded.

“It is im­por­tant to note that for the work amount­ing to R453 720, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity has al­ready paid R1 462 500 and now the bank ac­count at­tach­ment of R614 214 will bring the to­tal cost to R2 076 714. The to­tal fruit­less ex­pen­di­ture, which should have been avoided, is cur­rently R1 622 994,” the coun­cil min­utes read.

They also show the mat­ter was in­ves­ti­gated by the Spe­cial In­ves­ti­gat­ing Unit (SIU).

“Ac­cord­ing to the SIU re­port, two of­fi­cials of Greater Tu­batse, the for­mer act­ing mu­nic­i­pal man­ager [Ade­laide Monyepao] and the man­ager le­gal ser­vices [Motha], con­firmed that they are happy with the fees charged by [the law firm Motha’s unit hired].”

But an in­voice shows the law firm they are so happy with charged R576 000 for four hours work “pe­rus­ing files”.

Motha de­clined to re­spond in de­tail to writ­ten ques­tions emailed and SMSed to him.

“I have been legally ad­vised not to com­ment on the al­le­ga­tions made against me, be­cause there is a po­ten­tial defama­tion case on the same al­le­ga­tions, of which the per­pe­tra­tors are aware,” he said in an email.

Greater Tu­batse mu­nic­i­pal man­ager Jo­hannes Mohlala said: “I have re­ceived your ques­tions, but that mat­ter is ac­tu­ally still sub ju­dice and I can’t talk about it.”

A se­nior man­ager at the mu­nic­i­pal­ity told City Press that Motha was in line for an­other pro­mo­tion – to the R858 000-a-year po­si­tion of cor­po­rate ser­vices di­rec­tor.

PHOTO: GALLO IM­AGES

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