The Herald (South Africa)
Concern as auditing head suspended
Municipal watchdog department now missing two senior staff members
THE Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality’s watchdog department, internal audit, is without a head following the recent suspension of internal audit director Bonnie Chan. Chan was suspended for allegedly failing to implement a council resolution to terminate its contract with KPMG.
Further exacerbating the staffing woes, senior forensic investigator Werner Wiehart was also suspended last month.
They join a list of at least eight other suspended officials, whose continuing disciplinary cases have cost the metro more than R850 000 thus far.
The reasons for Wiehart’s suspension are unclear.
“I was maliciously suspended because I investigate corruption at the highest level and I found confirmation of corruption being covered up,” Wiehan said.
Insiders claim he was probing matters involving city manager Johann Mettler, but Mettler denied this.
In the absence of the two officials, Mettler said Niall Bisson, an assistant director in the unit, would be acting head.
Two municipal insiders said Chan was suspended for failing to implement a council resolution on cutting ties with KPMG.
The EFF brought an urgent motion in October to terminate the contract with KPMG following the controversy around the firm’s work for the Gupta family.
At the time, KPMG had been managing the metro’s ethics hotline and its audit and risk plan for three years.
The decision was made in council to end the contract in February, allowing time for KPMG to hand over to a new auditing firm.
After this decision, Chan was meant to lead the process to ensure the municipality permanently hired the KPMG staff doing the city’s auditing work for it.
“Bonnie wanted the contract to be extended. She said she needed more time because corporate services was not doing their work to insource the KPMG staff and so on,” a municipal insider close to the process said.
“There was a feeling she was looking for excuses and waking up at the last moment.
“She was then suspended for not implementing the council resolution and also for poor leadership.”
When contacted for comment yesterday, Chan said she was on sick leave and hung up before any questions could be posed. She did not respond to text messages requesting the reasons for her suspension.
Mettler would only confirm Chan’s suspension, adding he could not confirm or deny if it was a result of the KPMG issue.
Mettler, however, indicated that five former KPMG employees had been appointed to the unit on a contract basis.
Municipal public accounts committee chairwoman Yoliswa Yako said having two senior staff in the internal audit department suspended was worrying.
“It leaves a gap in a crucial department of the municipality.
“We have audit findings from the auditor-general that must be attended to, so we can’t not have an internal audit head. “It means we have no function to police wrongdoing,” she said.
Meanwhile, the metro is still struggling to conclude proceedings against eight other officials, including former housing delivery director Mvuleni Mapu and three officials from the public health department.
Proceedings against Mapu, who was suspended in September 2015 for alleged misconduct and corruption, had cost the metro nearly R610 000 by February 14.
This is according to confidential council documents – seen by The Herald – detailing the progress made and costs incurred in various disciplinary cases.
The documents explained that Mapu’s second hearing had been delayed “for a significant amount of time” due to his health.
Mapu confirmed yesterday that he had submitted several medical certificates to the metro, but said it had nothing to do with his hearing.
“It was just to inform the employer,” Mapu said. “I’ve attended all hearings by the employer, [and] I’m waiting for the hearing to be finalised.”
The metro is also continuing its proceedings against public health officials Joram Mkosana, Nkosinathi Dolo and Thabo Williams, who were suspended in April.
Although the documents state that the charge sheets against the three are still being drafted, Mettler said the sheets had been finalised. The hearing costs for the three amounted to R242 000 thus far.
Mettler said the process had been delayed as two investigations against the three officials had to be concluded.
Asked why the city was not negotiating settlements with other employees who had been suspended, Mettler said he could not approach employees to negotiate settlements.
Mettler said he believed progress had been made with suspended officials.
“We have made progress, but not as rapidly as I would like.
“There are cases that drag on for a long time, but it is because staff members or officials tend to postpone these things because of sickness, but there is progress.
“Once I charge people the cases can run, but as soon as you charge people they become ill.
“There are a number of cases where officials refuse to have evidence heard and we have agreed to have a case by affidavit, “Mettler said. – Additional reporting by Rochelle de Kock