Man­ager in R3.8m mu­nic­i­pal scan­dal

CityPress - - News - POLOKO TAU poloko.tau@city­

A strug­gling Lim­popo mu­nic­i­pal­ity has ap­pointed a mu­nic­i­pal man­ager who was fired for “gross in­com­pe­tence” by her pre­vi­ous em­ployer, and who has al­legedly racked up a R3.8 mil­lion bill for pri­vate se­cu­rity in a sin­gle month.

Now mu­nic­i­pal work­ers union Samwu in Lim­popo has opened a case of cor­rup­tion at the Tho­hoyan­dou Po­lice Sta­tion, ask­ing that the “ex­or­bi­tant” pay­ment by the Vhembe District Mu­nic­i­pal­ity be in­ves­ti­gated.

They have also ap­proached the labour court to look into the le­git­i­macy of Ndan­d­u­leni Makhari’s ap­point­ment as Vhembe’s mu­nic­i­pal man­ager.

City Press has seen a let­ter from the Gaut­eng Gam­bling Board, where Makhari worked as chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer, con­firm­ing she was fired in June last year fol­low­ing charges of “mis­con­duct and gross in­com­pe­tence”.

Samwu al­leges that Makhari did not dis­close any of this to her new em­ployer and that her ap­point­ment was not go­ing to solve the al­ready trou­bled mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s woes.

Makhari said: “I didn’t ap­point my­self so I can’t com­ment on is­sues of my ap­point­ment. It should be the mayor or some other of­fi­cials who should an­swer to that.”

Mu­nic­i­pal spokesper­son Ma­todzi Ralushai said the coun­cil knew of the is­sues raised re­gard­ing her ap­point­ment and the “mat­ter is be­ing dis­cussed by pro­vin­cial govern­ment with rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers. Samwu is also ... par­tic­i­pat­ing in dis­cus­sions while [Makhari] con­tin­ues to per­form mu­nic­i­pal­ity du­ties.”

Samwu op­posed Makhari’s ap­point­ment late last year and went on strike in De­cem­ber. This led to the mu­nic­i­pal­ity hir­ing a pri­vate se­cu­rity firm, whose name is known to City Press, be­tween De­cem­ber 8 and Jan­uary 11.

The com­pany’s R3.8 mil­lion in­voice shows that 194 se­cu­rity guards, 40 of whom were armed, guarded 25 sites around the clock – mostly mu­nic­i­pal wa­ter plants and of­fices. This trans­lates to a cost of al­most R20 000 each – R14 000 more than the high­est salary a se­cu­rity guard would earn for a month’s work in Jo­han­nes­burg.

Ralushai said the coun­cil hired the com­pany af­ter re­ceiv­ing a “se­cu­rity risk as­sess­ment re­port that in­di­cated threats to mu­nic­i­pal­ity as­sets and in­fra­struc­ture dur­ing the pe­riod of the work­ers’ strike. Pay­ment made is for ser­vice ren­dered dur­ing the time.”

But Samwu pro­vin­cial chair­per­son Tim­son Tshililo says this was a waste since the coun­cil had de­cided in 2015 to cut costs and in-source se­cu­rity ser­vices, af­ter hav­ing spent R14 mil­lion on pri­vate se­cu­rity in 2014.

A bank ac­count con­fir­ma­tion doc­u­ment City Press has seen shows that the com­pany’s bank ac­count, into which the R3.8 mil­lion pay­ment was made, was only opened on Jan­uary 22.

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity ap­proved pay­ment to the com­pany on Jan­uary 18 and Makhari signed the cheque req­ui­si­tion on Jan­uary 29.

Fur­ther­more, the coun­cil ap­proved the pay­ment on Jan­uary 12 and cited a spe­cific bud­get num­ber from which the money should be paid.

In a cheque req­ui­si­tion form City Press has seen, the bud­get num­ber was scratched out and re­placed with an­other that coun­cil had not ap­proved.

“Some­thing is def­i­nitely wrong here; we have tried but we are not get­ting any ex­pla­na­tion. Our mu­nic­i­pal­ity is on the brink of col­lapse be­cause pro­ce­dures and poli­cies are be­ing dis­re­garded,” Tshililo said.

“So we ask our­selves why this mu­nic­i­pal­ity, which is fail­ing to pay its em­ploy­ees and un­able to pro­vide ser­vices to our peo­ple, could sign such a lux­ury deal for only one month cost­ing such a hefty amount of money.”

Ralushai said the coun­cil “will con­duct an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion on the pay­ment ad­min­is­tra­tive process and the amount to en­sure that is­sues raised are ad­dressed.”

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