Probe clears debt col­lec­tion com­pany The re­port adds that the ‘lack of checks and bal­ances is as­ton­ish­ing and glar­ing’

Diamond Fields Advertiser - - NEWS - PATSY BEANGSTROM NEWS EDI­TOR

THE SEC­TION 106 in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Sol Plaatje Mu­nic­i­pal­ity did “not find any proof of im­pro­pri­ety with re­gard to the com­pany New In­te­grated Credit So­lu­tions (NICS) which sent out text mes­sages to house­holds to com­mu­ni­cate the R260 elec­tric­ity tar­iff”.

The re­port points out that NICS was ap­pointed as a debt col­lec­tion com­pany and agreed to as­sist the mu­nic­i­pal­ity to dis­sem­i­nate the mes­sage to house­holds since they have the con­tact de­tails of res­i­dents on their database. “This ser­vice was pro­vided at no ex­tra cost to the mu­nic­i­pal­ity.”

The ser­vices of Cherry Green Me­dia and The Print Zone were ac­quired by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity through de­vi­a­tions of the Sup­ply Chain Man­age­ment Pol­icy.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, Cherry Green Me­dia was paid R199 890 as part of the mass me­dia cam­paign em­barked on by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity to dis­sem­i­nate in­for­ma­tion re­lat­ing to the R260 elec­tric­ity tar­iff, whereas The Print Zone was paid R241 500.

It points out fur­ther that while the rea­son for the de­vi­a­tions was stated as ex­cep­tional cases, no ex­pla­na­tion was pro­vided as what con­sti­tuted ex­cep­tion.

“The fol­low­ing at­tracted the con­cern of the team upon closer scru­tiny:

* the pro­cure­ment de­vi­a­tion forms for The Print Zone as well as Cherry Green Me­dia were signed by the CFO un­der the head­ing ‘Rec­om­mended by: Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor’.

* in her own hand­writ­ing she then wrote the fol­low­ing: ‘Rec­om­mended for con­sid­er­a­tion and ap­proval’.

* un­der the head­ing ‘Rec­om­mend to Mu­nic­i­pal Man­ager’ she cor­rectly signed where the CFO should sign and wrote ‘rec­om­mended’.

“The above-men­tioned means that the CFO signed where the ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor (line man­ager) should have signed – rec­om­mend­ing to her­self as CFO – and then signed as CFO rec­om­mend­ing to the MM.”

Fin­gers were also pointed at the mu­nic­i­pal man­ager stat­ing that he should have taken con­trol of the de­ba­cle around the R260 elec­tric­ity levy.

“How­ever, he al­lowed the CFO to take con­trol of the mat­ter which amounts to dere­lic­tion of duty on his part.”

The re­port adds that the “lack of checks and bal­ances is as­ton­ish­ing and glar­ing”.

It also refers to the “ab­sence of in­put by the com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager”, which it de­scribes as “con­cern­ing”, adding that it raises con­cern of “lack of seg­re­ga­tion of du­ties”.

“Fur­ther­more, the CFO in­structed mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials to print 60 000 fly­ers not­with­stand­ing the fact that an ex­ter­nal ser­vice provider was pro­cured to per­form the func­tion. The dis­tri­bu­tion of th­ese fly­ers was done by EPWP work­ers.

“The team con­cluded that the mu­nic­i­pal­ity had no com­mu­ni­ca­tion strat­egy to com­mu­ni­cate with the res­i­dents and that the com­mu­ni­ca­tion man­ager of the in­sti­tu­tion was left out in the cold as the CFO be­came the face and voice of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity.”

The task team also re­ferred to the lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion re­gard­ing the elec­tric­ity tar­iff and levy by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity to res­i­dents. “It was al­ways on the back foot and re­ceiv­ing end of the me­dia cam­paign lodged by the res­i­dents.”

It added that the coun­cil­lors were also not au fait with the ra­tio­nale for the R260 levy. “Many coun­cil­lors heard about the R260 levy through the me­dia … the mu­nic­i­pal­ity should have done an ex­tra ef­fort to get its coun­cil­lors on board.

“Even the lack­lus­tre me­dia cam­paign lodged by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity did not yield any fruits mostly be­cause the CFO was the face and voice of the me­dia cam­paign and the MM was nowhere to be seen as ac­count­ing of­fi­cer and head of ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

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