Another eventful day in Bay politics
Acting city boss Peter Neilson was in the hot seat on Thursday as councillors demanded to know who had told him to have the cases of suspended and fired staff reviewed.
Neilson would only say it was members of the mayoral committee.
He had to answer to councillors of the municipal public accounts committee (Mpac) as to why he got a third-party law firm to review the cases currently being handled by Gray Moodliar Attorneys for the city when the accounts committee was still deciding on the way forward.
The councillors argued the move to review cases of suspended officials nullified any progress made by the public accounts committee.
The issue of suspended officials is among the priorities listed in the committee’s quarterly report.
DA councillor Kabelo Mogatosi described the council’s decision as irrational.
“We endorsed that those people can come back but here we are sitting and talking about consequence management,” he said.
“It goes against everything that we have been working on for the past three years.
“This thing is very simple, I want to ignore the irrational decision that was taken in council,” Mogatosi said.
DA councillor Morne Steyn said the return of suspended officials would be embarrassing for the municipality when the auditor-general flagged it.
“Where does this leave [the public accounts committee] as we have been monitoring this for some time now?
“It’s of great concern. “We can’t just bring people back to the municipality when they have been suspended, even if there is an independent review of these cases.
“This independent review will amount to wasteful and irregular expenditure in any event,” Steyn said.
ACDP councillor Lance Grootboom demanded to know who had issued the instruction.
“We have officials that have been charged and are going to disciplinary process, the then acting city manager said they must go on review and the municipality paid money for that to happen.
“These hearings are costing the municipality money.
“Some of these matters are very serious. Mr Neilson must as the accounting officer account on this.”
Neilson said it was too soon for him to write a report because he was going through a lot of paperwork.
“Obviously, Mpac needs a report because I believe that whatever process has to be followed Mpac and the council need to be fully briefed.
“There is no-one that is going to bring back any suspended officials or make a decision that will not go through the office of the city manager.”
He updated the councillors on what had happened so far.
“Without having studied each individual case, I can only speak generically.
“I understand that a number of these go back four or five years and in some cases have been considered by very smart legal minds.”
He said there was no intention to bring back officials without studying each case.
“But we can’t continue spending millions on people who are doing nothing – someone has to take a decision.
“None of these decisions is going to be taken without due consideration for the best value for the institution.”
Neilson said he had appointed a small subcommittee as he was not a professional lawyer or labour expert. It comprises the chief operations officer and labour relations and internal audit officials.
Neilson said he had requested that all the opinions received on each case be considered by the subcommittee.
EFF councillor Lukhanyo Mrara said: “This is a committee that must hold the executive accountable – if it means that we must call the mayor himself to come and account, then let’s do that.”
The council on Tuesday decided that Neilson must implement any recommendations from the attorneys reviewing the disciplinary and labour-related cases.
● Suspended housing director Mvuleni Mapu claimed on Thursday that he and other suspended officials were part of a purge led by suspended city boss Johann Mettler.
His statement was also on behalf of former supply chain contracts controller Sox Nkanjeni, former public health executive director Andile Tolom and ex-acting director of waste management, Nkosinathi Dolo.
“The hit list targeted strategic positions and employees who were perceived to be threats in supply chain, budget and treasury, legal, housing, human resources and public health,” the letter says.
“There was never a massive corruption in this metro as was claimed. Ever since 2015, not a single report outlines the purported corruption orchestrated by the employees.”
The officials challenged the municipality to publish all information showing any wrongdoing by the implicated officials and to make available case numbers of those alleged to have committed acts of fraud and corruption.
HOT SEAT: Acting city manager Peter Neilson is grilled by municipal public accounts committee councillors at Thursday’s meeting