‘Municipal tribunals are important in combatting fraud,’ says Cronjé

2014-04-11 00:00

“IT works quickly, it gives judgments quickly, and it’s free to the public,” said Ina Cronjé, provincial finance MEC, announcing the establishment of the Municipal Bid Appeals Tribunals (MBATs) now operating in municipalities throughout KwaZulu-Natal.

The establishment of the tribunals “is considered to be an important measure in combating fraud and corruption at local government level”, said Cronjé, speaking at a function held at SunCoast Casino yesterday.

“They provide members of the public with a way of questioning processes following by municipalities in awarding contracts or tenders.”

“KZN is the only province in the country that has established an appeals measure of this nature,” said Cronjé. The tribunals first came into operation last August. There is a tribunal attached to each district municipality to which the local municipalities have access.

Cronjé said if someone has a question about a tender award or “if they feel something was funny, or they know something”, they have the option of taking court action “but that costs money and takes time” whereas the tribunals offer an alternative, “without dipping into your pocket”.

According to Siza Mthethwa, general manager: KZN supply chain management, the tribunals are particularly useful for emerging contractors and small businesses “who don’t have the financial resources to go to court”.

The tribunal members are people with legal and accounting backgrounds. “They are outside government and the real benefit of this is that they are people with independent minds,” said Cronjé.

Cronjé said the provincial treasury had created the tribunals as it had a constitutional obligation to provide administrative support and assistance to municipalities. “The challenge is compliance,” said Cronjé, “compliance on the part of municipalities to the Municipal Finance Management Act.”

She said that supply chain management or procurement was at “centre stage” because it involved financial transactions.

“If you don’t manage procurement and transactions you are in trouble.

“If people suspect there is hanky panky, this enables us to nip it in the bud.”

However, Cronjé cautioned that any “frivolous and vexatious” appeals aimed at being obstructive and time wasting would be dealt with quickly and cost awards will be made.

Nandi Dlamini, who has a legal and business background, and is a tribunal member in the Uthungulu District Municipality, which includes Richards Bay, said the frequency of sittings “depends on the demand of the municipality. When we sit we have a chair and two or three members.”

According to Praveen Sham, a Stanger attorney and member of the Ilembe District Municipality tribunal, the great virtue of the tribunals are the speed in which decisions are made. “You set the date, you sit, and then you give a judgment as quickly as possible.” Judgments are given either on the same day as the sitting or within two weeks.

• If you wish to make use of the Municipal Bid Appeals Tribunals, contact Philile Memela 033 897 4357; fax 033 897 4335; or postal address KZN Provincial Supply Chain Unit, 145 Chief Albert Luthuli Street, Pietermaritzburg, 3201.

• Stephen.Coan@witness.co.za

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