Charges and re­sponses at the Joburg coun­cil

City em­ploy­ees write about the way in which they’ve been treated

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - ANNA COX

TWO se­nior City of Joburg em­ploy­ees who were im­pli­cated in corruption within City Power and the De­part­ment of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment have re­sponded to al­le­ga­tions against them.

Sicelo Xulu, the for­mer City Power man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, whose con­tract was ter­mi­nated ear­lier this month, said he took of­fence at hav­ing been im­pli­cated in the me­dia as be­ing cor­rupt or in­volved in mis­con­duct.

“I re­fute these dis­parag­ing al­le­ga­tions and have no doubt that if af­forded the op­por­tu­nity to pro­vide my in­put, any mis­con­cep­tion that I am cor­rupt will be dis­pelled,” he said.

On the other hand, the other em­ployee said he was tak­ing le­gal ac­tion against the city as there were nu­mer­ous ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in his suspension.

The em­ployee, a se­nior of­fi­cial from the De­part­ment of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment, was sus­pended this Fri­day pend­ing a dis­ci­plinary hear­ing into al­le­ga­tions of mis­con­duct re­lat­ing to con­tracts and pay­ments linked to the Jo­han­nes­burg Broadband Net­work Project made by the Metropoli­tan Trad­ing Com­pany (MTC).

“I have never been shown the foren­sic re­port and never asked to com­ment dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tions as there are ex­pla­na­tions for all the al­le­ga­tions,” he said.

The lat­est suspension stems from the R1.3 bil­lion Metropoli­tan Trad­ing Com­pany (MTC) broadband in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to City of Joburg mayor Her­man Mashaba, the of­fi­cial from the De­part­ment of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment was dis­ci­plined over al­le­ga­tions of mis­con­duct re­lat­ing to con­tracts and pay­ments linked to the Jo­han­nes­burg Broadband Net­work Project made by the Metropoli­tan Trad­ing Com­pany (MTC).

The of­fi­cial in ques­tion has al­ready been im­pli­cated in an in­de­pen­dent foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tion which rec­om­mends cor­rec­tive ac­tion be taken.

He is also ac­cused of de­lib­er­ately frus­trat­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the city’s seem­ingly in­ex­pli­ca­ble R1.3 bil­lion ac­qui­si­tion of the 900km broadband net­work in 2015.

The aim of the Jo­han­nes­burg Broadband Net­work Project was to pro­vide ac­cess to broadband ser­vices which would im­prove the city’s ser­vice de­liv­ery, re­alise ICT cost-re­lated sav­ings for the city, and grant com­mu­ni­ties and busi­nesses across Joburg af­ford­able ac­cess to the Net.

De­spite the as­tro­nom­i­cal cost, few of these ben­e­fits had been re­alised, ne­ces­si­tat­ing a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion into this project, said the mayor.

This suspension fol­lows on the ter­mi­na­tion of Xulu’s con­tract ear­lier this month.

Mashaba said the City Power Board met fol­low­ing the fi­nal sub­mis­sion of Sizwe Nt­saluba Go­bodo In­cor­po­rated’s damn­ing foren­sic re­port into al­le­ga­tions of widespread corruption and mis­man­age­ment, cost­ing the public bil­lions of rand.

On Fe­bru­ary 24, Xulu was placed on spe­cial leave but de­cided to ter­mi­nate his con­tract fol­low­ing de­tails of se­ri­ous mis­con­duct.

Mashaba said he fully sup­ported the de­ci­sion and that it would be­gin the process of restor­ing good gov­er­nance and end­ing corruption at the power util­ity.

“Weak cor­po­rate gov­er­nance and corruption at City Power have for too long been al­lowed to rob our res­i­dents of much-needed ser­vice de­liv­ery.”

This had most re­cently been made ev­i­dent by al­leged corruption and gross mis­man­age­ment of the El­do­rado Park and Hope­field sub­sta­tion con­tracts, where mil­lions of rand were paid to a con­trac­tor who had not per­formed the work re­quired. A NUM­BER of me­dia re­leases have been is­sued by rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the City of Jo­han­nes­burg in re­spect of the al­le­ga­tions that there is corruption within City Power.

Many state­ments have been made im­ply­ing that I am cor­rupt or in some way in­volved in gross mis­con­duct.

Most notably, no de­tail what­so­ever is given in these press re­leases, de­spite re­ports that the Sizwe Nt­saluba Go­bodo In­cor­po­rated foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tion has been con­cluded.

City Power in­formed me re­cently that they do not in­tend to in­sti­tute dis­ci­plinary pro­ceed­ings against me but that in the in­ter­ests of City Power I am re­leased from my obli­ga­tions to ten­der my ser­vices but they would hon­our their obli­ga­tions to me un­til the ter­mi­na­tion of my fixed-term con­tract which oc­curs on Au­gust 31.

The en­quiry into al­le­ga­tions of al­leged corruption made against my­self and oth­ers was ini­ti­ated in this in­stance by the City of Jo­han­nes­burg in Jan­uary.

Many of these al­le­ga­tions made against me are not new, hav­ing been the sub­ject mat­ter of pre­vi­ous in­ves­ti­ga­tions and re­views by rep­utable pro­fes­sional in­sti­tu­tions such as a well-es­tab­lished au­dit­ing and foren­sic firm, a lead­ing law firm, prac­tis­ing ad­vo­cates and also by the au­di­tor-gen­eral, all of which con­cluded that I was not im­pli­cated in any im­pro­pri­ety what­so­ever. While the City of Jo­han­nes­burg wished to sus­pend me at that time, the Board of City Power was of the view that there was no ev­i­dence avail­able which would jus­tify my suspension. While there was talk of new ev­i­dence be­ing avail­able, this was not pro­vided to City Power by the City of Jo­han­nes­burg and on that ba­sis City Power had no le­gal ba­sis to sus­pend me.

To fa­cil­i­tate the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and in the be­lief that this would clear my name again, I pro­posed to the Board of City Power that I would take spe­cial leave and would have an op­por­tu­nity to pre­sent my in­put into the in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­port when this be­came avail­able.

I sub­se­quently par­tic­i­pated in an in­ter­view with the in­ves­ti­ga­tors and pro­vided them with sub­stan­tial in­for­ma­tion and will­ingly an­swered all queries they raised with me.

Al­though I have re­quested it (SNG foren­sic re­port), I have not to date been pro­vided with a copy of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­port and there­fore have no knowl­edge what­so­ever of the find­ings or whether there are in fact any al­le­ga­tions of im­pro­pri­ety on my be­half. As re­cently as to­day (yes­ter­day), I sug­gested in a let­ter to City Power that we could meet to dis­cuss the al­le­ga­tions made against me and oth­ers in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­port as I have noth­ing to hide as I have had no in­volve­ment what­so­ever in corruption at City Power or else­where. On that as­pect, I agree with Mayor Mashaba that corruption must be stamped out and it is for that rea­son that I am happy to as­sist City Power if they want me to do so.

I am ob­vi­ously of­fended that I have been im­pli­cated in the me­dia as be­ing cor­rupt or in­volved in mis­con­duct when I have not been favoured with the speci­ficity as to the ba­sis of the al­leged in­ves­ti­ga­tion find­ings. I AM tak­ing le­gal ac­tion against the city as there are nu­mer­ous ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in my suspension. I have never been shown the foren­sic re­port and never asked to com­ment dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tions as there are ex­pla­na­tions for all the al­le­ga­tions. Time­line: From the trail­ing e-mail, you may no­tice that the re­quests for in­for­ma­tion from Nexus only started on the June 30, this de­spite the fact that we were in­formed there would be an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into this mat­ter on March 6, when we pre­sented to you on the his­tory of the mat­ter and the com­pany.

I only re­ceived a re­quest for in­for­ma­tion on July 10. This was not even a full day be­fore Gen­eral (Shadrack) Sibiya and his team con­fronted me in my of­fice for files and doc­u­men­ta­tion re­lat­ing to the mat­ter on the ba­sis that we were be­ing “un­co­op­er­a­tive”. At the time they did so, I and my team were pre­par­ing the re­quested doc­u­men­ta­tion, hav­ing only just re­ceived the re­quest ap­prox­i­mately six work­ing hours ear­lier. I was fur­ther­more as­saulted and my de­vices taken from me. I have laid crim­i­nal charges of as­sault and theft.

I have for the past num­ber of years (ap­prox­i­mately seven) utilised my own per­sonal de­vices while con­duct­ing my city du­ties. I also utilise cloud plat­forms such as Google, Drop­box, What­sApp etc. Part of the rea­son for this is that the ini­tial lap­top I was as­signed by the city pre­sented with a fault which Group ICT never re­solved, there­fore leav­ing me to make my own ar­range­ments in or­der to con­tinue to be pro­duc­tive. This means that as my pri­mary per­sonal com­put­ing de­vices, there are sig­nif­i­cant amounts of per­sonal data and in­for­ma­tion on them.

The city has never raised this as an is­sue and in the case of this trans­ac­tion, mem­bers of the team were ac­tu­ally in­structed to not utilise city in­fra­struc­ture as it was un­re­li­able and in­se­cure. On the 11th, Gen­eral Sibiya un­law­fully and forcibly seized these de­vices. This de­spite me mak­ing a good faith of­fer to work with his team to iden­tify per­ti­nent data, doc­u­ments, e-mails, pre­sen­ta­tions and any­thing else rel­e­vant to this in­ves­ti­ga­tion. I have re­peated this of­fer at least twice and it has been de­clined both times on Gen­eral Sibiya’s in­struc­tions, most re­cently Sun­day, July 16.

It should be self-ev­i­dent that if the city wants to con­clude the in­ves­ti­ga­tion timeously, it would want ac­cess to the data that will progress the said in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The re­fusal to ac­cept the rel­e­vant data sub­stan­ti­ates my view, which is that this in­ves­ti­ga­tion is a “mala fide” fish­ing ex­pe­di­tion rather than a search for the truth re­lat­ing to this mat­ter. I say this be­cause the ex­am­i­na­tion that may be con­ducted with cer­tain data stored on these de­vices, such as on­line pass­words, fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion, so­cial me­dia post­ings and re­la­tion­ships, per­sonal e-mails and mes­sages and per­sonal data about my mi­nor chil­dren etc when cor­re­lated across mul­ti­ple de­vices and plat­forms de­fine many of our lives to­day. I should also note that in a meet­ing held with the city’s own lawyers and coun­sel, they con­ceded that this was a fish­ing ex­pe­di­tion.

I think it’s there­fore self-ev­i­dent why I do not want an ex­cep­tion­ally un­pro­fes­sional in­di­vid­ual who be­lieves he has a man­date to “find some­thing, any­thing” to have ac­cess to con­duct a war­rant-less search on the ex­ten­sive per­sonal data as con­tained on my de­vices.

Why, for in­stance, would I want him to be able to de­ter­mine where my chil­dren go to school and the route I take to de­liver them there? Or to view per­sonal mes­sages and pic­tures be­tween my spouse and I?

My last point is the ques­tion of why a fish­ing ex­pe­di­tion is even nec­es­sary. I have sub­mit­ted to the MTC chief ex­ec­u­tive, man­ag­ing ex­ec­u­tive, board, and MMC: Fi­nance, a set of doc­u­men­ta­tion which at least shows mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion, con­tra­ven­tions and at­tempted ten­der fraud and, pos­si­bly, vi­o­la­tion for two spe­cific pro­cure­ment ac­tiv­i­ties to­talling ap­prox­i­mately R70 mil­lion. Soon af­ter sub­mit­ting this in­for­ma­tion I was re­moved from my po­si­tion as act­ing CTO and to date there has been no in­ves­ti­ga­tion of these ac­tiv­i­ties.

‘I an­swered all the queries they raised with me’ ‘I do not want him to ac­cess my per­sonal data’

SET­TING THE RECORD STRAIGHT: Sicelo Zulu, for­mer man­ag­ing di­recter of City Power at Rood­e­poort sub­sta­tion, has taken of­fence at hav­ing been im­pli­cated in the me­dia as be­ing cor­rupt or in­volved in mis­con­duct.

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