Ditsobotla’s problems blamed on acting head
The ailing Ditsobotla Local Municipality in Lichtenburg, North West, allegedly borrowed R1.8 million from a service provider to enable it to pay salaries last month.
Employees of the municipality have expressed concern over problems that landed Ditsobotla under administration more than two years ago, following years of bad financial audits. These problems, they add, are still ongoing.
After appointing administrators and, more recently, an acting municipal manager, the North West government is yet to record any success from its intervention efforts in Ditsobotla. Fingers are pointing at Monde Juta, who was seconded to Ditsobotla in August 2015 as acting municipal manager by the then local government MEC, Collen Maine.
Juta was redeployed to the municipality from his position as municipal manager of neighbouring Madibeng Local Municipality in Brits. This after having been suspended – twice – from that post on allegations of irregularities as well as corruption and fraud. Yet he was twice reinstated and then seconded to Ditsobotla.
Several employees of Ditsobotla municipality said the municipality owed Eskom more than R120 million, adding that those brought in to save the municipality had simply grabbed the baton and continued to drive the administration in the wrong direction.
Juta has been accused of appointing a company in Ditsobotla which was irregularly appointed in Madibeng.
City Press has seen bidding adjudication documents detailing how HDM Engineering was eliminated in the second evaluation process, but later got appointed by Juta, who had overlooked three recommended firms in Madibeng.
There are also documents detailing how Juta appointed the same company to Ditsobotla for a similar electricity project, citing Regulation 32, under which no open tender process needs to be taken – but exceptional reasons for doing so have to be given, in writing, to the municipal head.
Concerns arose that this regulation was being abused so that companies could be appointed without sound reasons, such as an emergency, warranting such appointments. More than four questionable company appointments, made under Regulation 32, have so far been recorded in Ditsobotla.
In addition, a large sum of money – paid by a service provider to Ditsobotla last month – has raised eyebrows.
A spreadsheet, seen by City Press, shows that Cigi Cell – a firm contracted by Ditsobotla municipality to sell prepaid electricity tokens – has, in the past 10 months, made daily deposits of about R100 000 into the municipal account. Total monthly sales over the same period have been estimated at R4 million, from which Cigi Cell would get 10% in commission.
Then, on November 24, the company deposited R1.8 million, which is almost half of its usual monthly total sales. A separate amount, believed to be based on actual sales, was also deposited that day.
Some workers believe it could have been used to top up the municipality’s monthly salary bill of about R13 million.
Insiders at the municipality said Ditsobotla’s financial health was ailing as they had received their salaries late on at least two occasions in recent months. The municipality has denied this.
In response to the R1.8 million payment, municipal spokesperson Pius Batsile said the municipality realised – after doing a reconciliation of the figures – that Cigi Cell had “not transferred adequate funds as required [and] therefore, the R1.8 million was [to correct] an error of all the outstanding amounts owed to the municipality”.
Batsile added: “The municipality has amended the current agreement with Cigi Cell, with the aim of getting the company to pay in advance for the distribution of electricity, as this is standard practice in the electricity industry.
“We are also expecting to get an advance payment of about R5 million from Cigi Cell at the end of this month. Similar agreements apply with regard to the Eskom contract and a few other municipalities,” Batsile said. The municipality owes Eskom more than R100 million. Neither Ditsobotla nor Madibeng have had clean financial audit reports in the past four financial years. Both have made headlines on issues of alleged corruption, maladministration and tender irregularities over that time.
Juta’s official term of secondment to Ditsobotla was initially six months, which was agreed to by Madibeng. Attempts to get an explanation drew blanks, with Madibeng’s municipal and departmental spokespersons – Tumelo Tshabalala and Ben Bole, respectively – failing to respond to questions sent to them more than a week ago.