‘Mayor tried to influence deal’

2013-07-24 00:00

THE full record of the Manase Report released yesterday to The Witness reveals a slew of documentation on the behaviour of former eThekwini mayor Obed Mlaba and his alleged attempt to influence a multibillion-rand tender in his favour.

The report, a 7 050-page document on a forensic investigation into the eThekwini Municipality, completed in January 2012 and kept confidential for over 18 months, was released by the Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Department (Cogta) yesterday.

It was released to The Witness and others who had applied for the document under the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA).

In June, a summary of the report was released.

It covers a wide range of instances of councillors and officials doing business with the council, of housing tenders, irregular contracts, employment and issues surrounding the Durban Metro Police.

The report’s conclusion, says Cogta MEC Nomusa Dube, “was justified” in instituting the investigation into “maladministration, potential fraud and corruption” within the council.

The report, compiled by auditors Manase and Associates, says the investigation found substance in several allegations that required attention, including collusion with suppliers and corruption and fraud within the Metro Police.

It lays bare Mlaba’s involvement in a landfill deal, with a number of signed statements, “shareholder meeting” minutes and a sworn affidavit attesting that the former mayor attempted to use his political influence to allow a company in which his daughter was director win a R3 billion tender to supply the equipment for a waste volume reduction plant at the Bisasar Road Landfill, Umgeni.

Tadek Tomaszewski, an opposing bidder for the same tender who entered into a partnership with Mlaba, said in his signed affidavit that the former mayor had a clear interest in the landfill project.

“[He said] that he would soon be leaving his mayoral position and would like to become involved in the waste management industry.

“He further indicated that he had done a lot of homework on the waste management industry and he described the Bisasar Road project as his pension fund,” said Tomaszewski’s affidavit.

Mlaba’s former business partner, Richard Wardrop, who was initially expected to find the investor capital needed to develop the plant, told investigators it was agreed that the “former mayor would use his influence in ensuring the company would be awarded the tender”.

Mlaba, who is undergoing training before being deployed as high commissioner to the United Kingdom, toldThe Witness that the “city must deal with it [the Manase Report]”, and if he has “done anything wrong” there is no way he is beyond prosecution. He would not comment further.

Former city manager Michael Sutcliffe told The Witness that the release of the report would allow the public to see how poorly it was executed and that it was a waste of taxpayers’ money.

“Everything mentioned in the full report the council already knew,” said Sutcliffe.

Derek Naidoo, deputy city manager for procurement and infrastructure, who was also named in the report, said he was unaware that it had been released.

“I welcome the release of the report. What I want to say to the powers that be is, let the truth be told,” said Naidoo.

The Democratic Alliance in eThekwini Municipality handed the report to its legal team to study and make recommendations on possible charges, said caucus leader Zwakele Mncwango.

The party said those implicated in the report had received minor sanctions.

“We are not going to take anything at face value. If we have to, we will lay charges. The slap on the wrist received by councillors is inadequate. We strongly believe they should have been fired,” said councillor Heinz de Boer, who serves on the mayoral committee.

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