Sunday Times

Joburg probes road agency over governance

Potholes spread as board chair is said to have ‘interfered’


● Boardroom politics have allegedly paralysed the agency responsibl­e for Johannesbu­rg’s “war on potholes”, which spent less than 20% of its capital budget in the first half of the financial year.

Now the City of Johannesbu­rg is investigat­ing allegation­s that the Johannesbu­rg Roads Agency (JRA) board interfered with supply chain processes and suspended tender evaluation­s after demanding that officials seek its approval when drawing up specificat­ions.

E-mails seen by the Sunday Times implicate board chair Albert Mokoena, who has left two previous high-profile jobs under a cloud, in instructin­g former CFO Makgopong Thindisa to pay R490,400 to a company called KK Ways, without supplying an in- voice or reasons.

On July 14 last year, Mokoena asked Thindisa: “What are our limits on EFT online payments? How much can we transfer today?”

After he was told no payments were being processed that day, Mokoena gave Thindisa KK Ways’ banking details and instructed her to make the payment. “Please let me know if you need any info. However, this payment is urgent!” he said. Thindisa did not make the payment.

Johannesbu­rg mayor Geoffrey Makhubo said he was taking the allegation­s seriously. “The matters you’ve raised are currently being investigat­ed by the city and once that process is finalised, appropriat­e action if required will be taken,” said his spokespers­on, Mlimandlel­a Ndamase.

In its report on the first half of the financial year, the JRA blamed the Covid-19 lockdown for the fact that it spent only R205m of its R1.08bn capital budget and admitted many of the roads for which it is responsibl­e are in “poor to very poor” condition.

“In line with available resources the JRA has adopted road resurfacin­g as a short- to medium-term strategy to prevent complete failure of the road network,” it said. Mokoena declined to comment.

JRA spokespers­on Sanele Zondi denied that the board had interfered with tender bid specificat­ions or that Mokoena ever gave an instructio­n for a payment.

“The agency received an inquiry from the public protector through the city manager’s office and responded accordingl­y. The board chairperso­n has never instructed the CFO to transfer funds to any company,” she said.

The public protector’s spokespers­on, Oupa Segalwe, said the inquiry was closed last month because the complainan­t did not make further representa­tions.

Mokoena was fired as director-general of home affairs during Thabo Mbeki’s presidency for running a basketball team from his office.

A disciplina­ry inquiry found him guilty of misconduct, including conflict of interest, private use of work facilities, improper use of state vehicles and use of government officials for private work.

In 2004, Mokoena was forced to resign as the South African Football Associatio­n CEO after a sex scandal.

In 2000, he was a management and administra­tive consultant for the IFP, which has assisted the ANC in a coalition to govern Johannesbu­rg. IFP councillor Nonhlanhla Makhuba is the mayoral committee member responsibl­e for transport, which means the party has jurisdicti­on over the roads agency.

The agency has performed so dismally that in a recent interview with the Financial Mail, mayor Makhubo said it was one of his main headaches.

The Sunday Times has seen a document submitted by former and current officials to city council forensic investigat­ors that describes how Mokoena and his board resolved on May 28 last year to involve themselves in operationa­l matters.

“The board chairperso­n had asked to be preferred with the specificat­ions for the organisati­onal developmen­t and change management tenders … When advised this was irregular, he warned that the acting MD should not be seen to be refusing informatio­n,” the document said.

“In addition, the CFO was directed to report to the chair of audit, finance, risk and IT and seek the latter’s approval before advertisin­g any tender bid. Essentiall­y, this removed the CFO’s Municipal Finance Management Act-accorded authority as the head of finance.”

On August 31 last year, the JRA board ordered an internal investigat­ion of the evaluation processes for bids for the supply of constructi­on aggregates and traffic signals equipment and other related contracts.

An internal audit report dated November 26 said no corruption was found but management had not obtained written permission from the chair of audit, finance, risk and IT to evaluate the bids.

In its response to the public protector’s investigat­ion of allegation­s that the JRA board interfered with supply chain processes “for what seem to be political interests”, the agency denied bid specificat­ions were shared with the board, even though minutes indicate otherwise.

 ??  ??
 ?? Pictures: Alon Skuy ?? As Johannesbu­rg’s pothole crisis worsens, the agency responsibl­e for fixing them is paralysed by boardroom shenanigan­s.
Pictures: Alon Skuy As Johannesbu­rg’s pothole crisis worsens, the agency responsibl­e for fixing them is paralysed by boardroom shenanigan­s.
 ??  ?? Albert Mokoena
Albert Mokoena

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa