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.