Delay over uMngeni probe

2008-08-25 00:00

uMNGENI is the latest municipality failing to act on a forensic investigation. The probe, ordered by local government MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu, resulted in a 160-page report and three lever-arch files of supporting documents.

The report was delivered to municipal speaker Suraya Pillay on July 31, 2008. Pillay was instructed to table the report at a full council meeting within 21 days so councillors could decide what follow-up steps to take. However, no council sitting has yet taken place.

The opposition Democratic Alliance and Inkatha Freedom Party said Pillay told them she had applied to the MEC for an extension, which they feel she had no right to do. They also questioned her appointment of an attorney to assist her.

The parties expressed fears that stalling could mean that staff implicated in the report may get to see it before the council does.

There are already rumours within the municipality that at least three officials have been fingered on corruption allegations that will require more than a rap over the knuckles.

DA caucus leader Pam Passmoor said the speaker does not have the authority to ask the MEC for an extension, or to decide that those implicated should have the chance to respond to the allegations. This can be dealt with only when the report is presented to the full council, she added.

IFP head of caucus Luke Mthembu said other parties also demand the right to see the report as they need to prepare their responses. He called for an urgent meeting of the full council.

Pillay referred The Witness to lawyer Matthew Francis, who said the speaker's request for more time was a question of practicality: she needed to properly study the lengthy report. He said Pillay had also asked the MEC for advice on aspects of the forensic investigation.

As chair of council, the speaker is entitled to make the request and seek legal advice, because she is tasked with guiding council through the decisions it makes, he said.

A hot potato expected to be dealt with in the forensic probe is the municipality's purchase of a R1,7 million house for the mayor, Edward Dladla. There have been allegations that procedures were not followed in buying the house, that it was bought at an inflated price and that soon after the sale the municipal manager, Dumisani Vilakazi, was allegedly rewarded with a trip to a Springbok rugby match in London.

Vilakazi has denied this, saying he is a rugby lover and paid for his own trip.

Other issues expected to be dealt with in the report include allegations of tender irregularities.

Local Government spokesman Lennox Mabaso said: "All municipalities where forensic investigations were performed are expected to act on the reports once they have been presented to them."

He said it would be "criminal" for any municipality not to do so, and in cases where this has happened, the provincial cabinet ordered the MEC to intervene and to make sure that action was taken.

"We have absolutely no reason to believe that uMngeni will not act on the report as required in terms of the law. The ministry stands ready to assist on any issue that a municipality may need clarity on," he said.

Last week The Witness reported that more than a year after a forensic report was tabled at the Msunduzi Muncipality, council has failed to charge or exonerate any official fingered in the report. Municipal manager Rob Haswell said the forensic report entailed a considerable amount of additional legal work that is nearing completion.

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