Bi­tou ma­yor de­fends his spen­ding

Knysna-Plett Herald - - From The Town Hall - Yo­lan­dé S­tan­der

Bi­tou ma­yor Pe­ter Lo­be­se has la­bel­led re­cent cri­ti­cism of his spen­ding ha­bits a sme­ar cam­paign by de­trac­tors.

He ca­me un­der fi­re in re­cent weeks af­ter claims a­bout “exor­bi­tant” ex­pen­di­tu­re on a ma­yo­ral vehi­cle and per­so­nal se­cu­ri­ty ca­me to lig­ht.

It was clai­med that Lo­be­se spent a­bout R60 000 and R200 000 per month on the­se re­specti­ve­ly.

Que­s­ti­ons and se­ver­al fol­low-ups by Knys­na-P­lett He­rald a­bout the ex­pen­ses did not e­li­cit a re­spon­se from the ma­yor’s of­fi­ce be­fo­re going to print in both ca­ses. Lo­be­se said the fai­lu­re to re­spond by the of­fi­ci­als in que­s­ti­on will be in­ves­ti­ga­ted.

Du­ring a can­did in­ter­view this week, the ma­yor sta­ted that the­se claims we­re war­ped and an at­tempt to “de­stroy my re­pu­ta­ti­on”.

“I’ve been wor­king for the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty for 12 y­e­ars now and ha­ve a cle­an re­cord.

It is al­so this good re­pu­ta­ti­on which led the pe­op­le of Bi­tou to put their trust in me and now the­re are so­me who want to de­stroy this,” Lo­be­se said.

A­bout the R60 000 per month ex­pen­se for a Vol­vo SUV, Lo­be­se ex­plai­ned that on the day of his inau­gu­ra­ti­on he sho­wed up at the coun­cil cham­bers in his sis­ter’s Volks­wa­gen Po­lo. “On­ce I was gi­ven the ma­yo­ral chain, I was al­so gi­ven the keys to a vehi­cle, a Jeep. I ne­ver as­ked for this and ne­ver knew w­hat I was get­ting. This was pro­cu­red by the pre­vi­ous coun­cil’s mu­ni­ci­pal ma­na­ger,” Lo­be­se said.

He im­me­di­a­te­ly said that the vehi­cle “was too big and ex­pen­si­ve” and nee­ded to “go back”, he ex­plai­ned. T­he­re­af­ter he was gi­ven a Toyo­ta For­tu­ner. Ac­cor­ding to Lo­be­se, both the­se had been short-term le­a­ses w­hi­le the pro­cu­re­ment for an of­fi­ci­al ma­yor vehi­cle was un­der way.

On­ce com­ple­ted, Lo­be­se was han­ded the keys to a BMW 320i, which he said cost a­bout R15 000 to R18 000. “This was the first vehi­cle sin­ce ta­king up of­fi­ce I agreed to,” he said.

Promp­ted by an ac­ci­dent

In Ju­ne this y­e­ar, ho­we­ver, the ma­yor and his dri­ver we­re in an ac­ci­dent in Port E­li­za­beth w­he­re he was at­ten­ding the fu­ne­ral of his nep­hew. The vehi­cle was ex­ten­si­ve­ly da­ma­ged and had to be re­pla­ced. “We suf­fe­red post-trau­ma­tic stress as a re­sult of the ac­ci­dent and was told that a sa­fe and sta­ble car would help de­al with this, w­hi­le we wai­ted for the in­su­ran­ce sett­le­ment for the da­ma­ged vehi­cle. I was told a Vol­vo was one of the sa­fest cars in the wor­ld at the mo­ment and the­re­fo­re the Vol­vo was le­a­sed.”

He ad­ded that his was pro­cu­red on a short-term ba­sis, but that the in­su­ran­ce in­ves­ti­ga­ti­on in­to the ac­ci­dent took lon­ger than ex­pected and the le­a­se had to be ex­ten­ded.

Lo­be­se said that on 16 Oc­to­ber the mat­ter was sett­led, the Vol­vo’s le­a­se was ter­mi­na­ted and he re­cei­ved the keys to a­not­her BMW 320i – a­gain on a long-term le­a­se, si­mi­lar to the pre­vi­ous BMW.

Bi­tou’s ma­yor was al­so cri­ti­ci­sed for spen­ding mo­re than R100 000 on ho­me se­cu­ri­ty and tens of thou­sands on “bo­dy­guards” and ot­her se­cu­ri­ty me­a­su­res – despi­te an as­ses­sment re­vea­ling that his life was not un­der thre­at.

Lo­be­se said he has ma­de se­ver­al un­po­pu­lar de­ci­si­ons sin­ce ta­king o­ver the po­si­ti­on as ma­yor, in­clu­ding the ter­mi­na­ti­on of his co­a­li­ti­on with the ANC and en­ding w­hat he des­cri­bes “cor­rupt ten­ders”. He said he be­lie­ves this has led to bit­ter­ness a­mong so­me and that he has e­ven re­cei­ved de­ath thre­ats.

I­ni­ti­al­ly the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty, un­der the ANC co­a­li­ti­on, ap­pro­ved pro­tecti­on at his ho­me, he said, but he la­ter de­ci­ded on a che­a­per com­pa­ny to do the job. This a­moun­ted to R106 020 a month for ar­med se­cu­ri­ty at his K­wa­no­kut­hu­la ho­me.

A­bout bo­dy­guards, Lo­be­se said his pro­tecti­on de­tail was not as a re­sult of a pri­va­te con­tract. He said he de­ci­ded to se­cond three em­ploy­ees from in­ter­nal law en­for­ce­ment to do the job. The­se in­di­vi­du­als, he said, we­re on­ly re­cei­ving their nor­mal sa­la­ries, with a few ad­ded be­ne­fits in­clu­ding o­ver­ti­me and for the risk that co­mes with pro­vi­ding pro­tecti­on ser­vi­ces. Lo­be­se said this de­ci­si­on was mo­ti­va­ted by sa­ving mo­ney for the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty.

Bi­tou ma­yor Pe­ter Lo­be­se

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