Mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s cof­fers looted

Re­port shows wide-scale cor­rup­tion un­der NFP

The Star Early Edition - - POLITICS - BHEKI MBANJWA

AFORENSIC in­ves­ti­ga­tion into fraud and cor­rup­tion at Non­goma mu­nic­i­pal­ity in KwaZulu-Na­tal has un­veiled al­leged wide-scale plun­der of resources at the mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

The re­port states that of­fi­cials ei­ther turned a blind eye or ac­tively par­tic­i­pated in loot­ing the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s cof­fers.

The probe cov­ered the pe­riod when the mu­nic­i­pal­ity was run by the Na­tional Free­dom Party, which held the reins from 2011 un­til Au­gust last year.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion, con­ducted by PwC and com­mis­sioned by the pro­vin­cial De­part­ment of Co-op­er­a­tive Gov­er­nance and Tra­di­tional Af­fairs (Cogta), found that some of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s funds were abused for the NFP’s ben­e­fit.

The re­cently ap­pointed Non­goma mayor, Al­bert Mncwango, of the IFP, de­scribed the NFP’s rule at the mu­nic­i­pal­ity as “five years of plun­der”. He said he had al­ready started con­sul­ta­tions with law en­force­ment agen­cies to en­sure that those guilty of cor­rup­tion were put behind bars.

Mncwango said dis­ci­plinary pro­cesses against im­pli­cated of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing four directors who had been put on sus­pen­sion, were un­der way.

“This is a very poor mu­nic­i­pal­ity with a zero base in­come. We solely rely on gov­ern­ment grants, so such acts rob peo­ple of Non­goma of the mea­gre resources,” he said.

The Cogta in­ves­ti­ga­tion found how, in one in­stance, of­fi­cials ap­proved the pay­ment of R90 000 for the pro­cure­ment of 1 000 NFP T-shirts un­der the guise that these were for the In­dige­nous Games held in the town in Oc­to­ber 2013.

One of the al­le­ga­tions probed re­lates to the award­ing of a con­struc­tion ten­der for a R14 mil­lion mu­seum and cul­tural hub. De­spite the con­tract be­ing awarded in 2011, con­struc­tion work had not be­gun.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors have rec­om­mended that R5m be re­cov­ered from con­trac­tors. One of the com­pa­nies in­volved in that con­tract had sub­mit­ted false doc­u­ments to the mu­nic­i­pal­ity, in­clud­ing a com­pany cre­den­tials and Con­struc­tion In­dus­try De­vel­op­ment Board (CIDB) grad­ing bor­rowed from other com­pa­nies.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tions also found that four of the directors who were em­ployed at the mu­nic­i­pal­ity did not fully meet the re­quire­ments of their po­si­tions.

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity con­verted the ap­point­ments from fixedterm to per­ma­nent ap­point­ments in April 2015.

It has fur­ther rec­om­mended that dis­ci­plinary ac­tion be taken against mem­bers of the short­list­ing com­mit­tee.

A short­fall of R213 935 was found at the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s li­cens­ing de­part­ment be­tween July 2012 and June 2013. Abuse of the sub­sis­tence and travel al­lowance for of­fi­cials was also probed, with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­veal­ing that in 2013, about 18 of­fi­cials were booked into a par­tic­u­lar guest house in Kok­stad, de­spite the guest house not be­ing ex­is­tent at that time.

“The book­ing agent could not con­firm the name of the place where the of­fi­cials stayed… The in­di­vid­u­als who were to be ac­com­mo­dated at the Manora Guest House could not re­mem­ber where they were ac­com­mo­dated.”

In some in­stances, sup­pli­ers were paid for work or ser­vices not ren­dered. In one case, a com­pany was paid R450 000 for perime­ter fenc­ing to a mu­nic­i­pal pound, which was not erected.

Mncwango said there were other abuses that were not men­tioned or un­cov­ered in the re­port. These in­cluded al­le­ga­tions that the mu­nic­i­pal­ity was col­lect­ing some funds – yet these were not banked but, rather, were used to fund the op­er­a­tions of the NFP.

Cogta spokesper­son Len­nox Mabaso said the de­part­ment was al­low­ing the mu­nic­i­pal­ity space to im­ple­ment the rec­om­men­da­tions and that it would con­duct an assess­ment in a few months.

He said that if MEC No­musa Dube be­lieved that the mu­nic­i­pal­ity had not prop­erly dealt with the mat­ter, she could take over the func­tion of im­ple­ment­ing the rec­om­men­da­tions.

Njab­ulo Mlaba, a mem­ber of Par­lia­ment and of the NFP’s na­tional work­ing com­mit­tee, said the party had not seen the re­port.

“We will not de­fend any­one who is guilty of wrong­do­ing. How­ever, we must keep in mind that peo­ple are in­no­cent un­til proved guilty. Those found guilty of trans­gres­sions must suf­fer the full con­se­quences,” Mlaba said.

DA MPL Hlan­ganani Gumbi called on the IFP to act on the re­port.

“While the clean-up of Non­goma mu­nic­i­pal­ity is go­ing to be messy, it is also a very im­por­tant process if the abuse of power is to be stopped,” he said.

Such acts rob peo­ple of mea­gre resources

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