Dit­sobotla’s prob­lems blamed on act­ing head

CityPress - - News - POLOKO TAU poloko.tau@city­press.co.za

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.

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