A foren­sic re­port re­veals a litany of mis­man­age­ment and fraud in Thaba Ch­weu, in­clud­ing mil­lions spent on ser­vices not ren­dered and RDP houses for friends – and noth­ing has been done to stop it

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

Cor­rupt of­fi­cials in a Mpumalanga mu­nic­i­pal­ity have al­legedly milked more than R300 mil­lion by steal­ing and sell­ing its land, pay­ing for ser­vices that weren’t de­liv­ered and pay­ing to build at least one road that does not ex­ist.

The loot­ing of the Thaba Ch­weu Lo­cal Mu­nic­i­pal­ity has left it strug­gling to pay off its R400 mil­lion debt to Eskom, en­gulfed it in ser­vice de­liv­ery protests and re­sulted in dis­claimer au­dit opin­ions from the Au­di­tor-Gen­eral for the past eight years. The mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s head of­fice is in Mashish­ing (for­merly Ly­den­burg).

A sec­tion of the foren­sic re­port re­lat­ing to the waste in­di­cates that the mu­nic­i­pal­ity lost R201.2 mil­lion – which can­not be re­cov­ered. How­ever, it can still try to re­coup R84.4 mil­lion in fruit­less ex­pen­di­ture.

The mu­nic­i­pal coun­cil has de­clined to re­lease the full foren­sic re­port, com­piled by Au­dit and Risk Man­age­ment So­lu­tions, which cov­ers five fi­nan­cial years, to the public and op­po­si­tion par­ties. The Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers (EFF) in the town claims this is in­tended to pro­tect im­pli­cated ANC politi­cians. The mu­nic­i­pal­ity has only re­leased the im­ple­men­ta­tion plan con­tained in the re­port.

Thaba Ch­weu mu­nic­i­pal man­ager Pa­trick Kgoale in­sisted this week that the foren­sic au­dit re­port would be kept con­fi­den­tial. He ac­cused coun­cil­lors of ig­nor­ing warn­ings not to re­lease it.

“I guess some op­po­si­tion coun­cil­lors are try­ing to use this re­port for po­lit­i­cal gain. The im­ple­men­ta­tion plan was re­leased as this foren­sic re­port was dealt with as a con­fi­den­tial item and coun­cil ju­di­ciously re­solved that the [mu­nic­i­pal man­ager] must treat such re­port as con­fi­den­tial while the im­pli­cated of­fi­cials were con­sulted,” said Kgoale.

EFF coun­cil­lor Ex­o­dus Maloka said the im­pli­cated politi­cians in­cluded Mayor Selina Mashigo-Sek­go­b­ela. Ir­reg­u­lar act­ing al­lowance pay­ments of R1 mil­lion were al­legedly au­tho­rised and RDP houses al­lo­cated to se­nior mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials, their rel­a­tives and friends. None of them qual­i­fied for these houses.

City Press has seen the full RDP ben­e­fi­ciary list and it backs this claim.

“They are pro­tect­ing politi­cians and tar­get­ing of­fi­cials alone. That’s the only rea­son they’re not re­leas­ing the full re­port. They have a lot to hide,” Maloka said.

While much of the cor­rup­tion men­tioned in the foren­sic au­dit re­port could not have been re­vealed in the im­ple­men­ta­tion plan, the plan still paints a poor pic­ture of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s ad­min­is­tra­tion.

It shows how public money was squan­dered and lost in ways in­clud­ing:

● Sup­ply chain pro­cesses were not fol­lowed in trans­ac­tions worth R176.2 mil­lion. The au­thors of the foren­sic re­port rec­om­mend that ir­reg­u­lar ex­pen­di­ture worth R95.1 mil­lion be writ­ten off be­cause doc­u­ments to back it up could not be traced;

● A to­tal of 96 res­i­den­tial stands worth R6 mil­lion were trans­ferred to pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als, with­out any money be­ing paid into the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s bank ac­count. Also, land worth R8.8 mil­lion was sold, but the con­veyancer did not trans­fer the money to the mu­nic­i­pal­ity;

● Of­fi­cials paid undis­closed amounts of money to com­pa­nies to com­pile an as­set reg­is­ter and gen­er­ate rev­enue from traf­fic fines, but no ser­vices were de­liv­ered. An amount of R840 000 was paid to a com­pany to in­ves­ti­gate ca­ble theft, but there was no ev­i­dence the job was ever done. An­other R47 000 was paid for main­te­nance work at a sub­sta­tion, but this was not done;

● The mu­nic­i­pal­ity in­curred a R10.2 mil­lion debt in build­ing a hy­dropower sta­tion that re­mains un­used;

● Of­fi­cials paid R3.5 mil­lion to law firms, de­spite hav­ing a con­tract with an­other firm, which was paid a monthly re­tainer of R120 000. They paid an ad­di­tional R286 000 to this firm, de­spite it be­ing on a re­tainer;

● Se­nior man­agers were ir­reg­u­larly paid R1 mil­lion in act­ing al­lowances they did not de­serve. A re­tired of­fi­cial was paid R16 000;

● A sum of R14.2 mil­lion was paid for shod­dily con­structed and re­fur­bished roads and R5.6 mil­lion was paid to con­struct a road that does not ex­ist; and

● Se­cu­rity com­pa­nies were fraud­u­lently ap­pointed with­out valid rea­sons and paid R42.2 mil­lion.

City Press re­ported three years ago how the mu­nic­i­pal­ity paid R5 mil­lion a month to a se­cu­rity com­pany to guard an elec­tric­ity trans­former.

While the Mpumalanga pro­vin­cial cabi­net has placed many dys­func­tional mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties un­der ad­min­is­tra­tion, Thaba Ch­weu has re­mained un­touched. In­sid­ers al­lege this is be­cause the mu­nic­i­pal­ity is a cash cow for se­nior ANC politi­cians, their rel­a­tives and cronies in Mpumalanga’s Bohla­bela re­gion.

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NOT FOR SALE The Thaba Ch­weu mu­nic­i­pal­ity, based in Mashish­ing (for­merly Ly­den­burg), was stopped from sell­ing 170 houses built by the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment af­ter Graskop res­i­dents re­minded them that then premier David Mabuza said the houses would be...

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