‘Officials must face charges’

2011-09-06 00:00

UMNGENI Municipality’s chief financial officer, Bertus van der Merwe, and former municipal manager Dumisani Vilakazi must face charges of maladministration, fraud and corruption.

This was argued yesterday by evidence leader Paul Schumann at the commission of inquiry into the affairs of the municipality.

The commission is expected to wrap up today for chairperson advocate Vusi Khuzwayo to weigh up the evidence and make his recommendations to Premier Zweli Mkhize.

An indication of Schumann’s line of argument became clear when he asked Vilakazi, who is appealing his dismissal from the municipality, whether he is seeking reinstatement.

Vilakazi declined to comment on his appeal.

Schumann later clarified that the commission’s brief is to recommend whether internal disciplinary hearings should be held against these officials. He said that if Vilakazi is not seeking reinstatement, it is futile to recommend that he undergo a disciplinary hearing.

Schumann said evidence before the commission shows gross maladministration at the municipality. He said there is clear evidence that the purchase of a house for the mayor was irregular.

Similarly, he alleged, fraud was committed against both the municipality and Absa Bank when the officials fraudulently represented that there was a council resolution authorising them to approach the bank for a guarantee for the sum of R991 000 for the purchase of the house. No such resolution existed.

Schumann said evidence also showed that Van der Merwe provided misleading information to the council about the cash flow situation.

The payment of car allowances that did not follow council policy was irregular. He said it was fraudulent that money for incomplete projects was not returned to treasury. Instead false certificates were issued saying the work was complete, when in fact it was not.

Schumann said he believes that both Vilakazi and Van der Merwe should be charged for appointing Venn, Nemeth and Hart as debt collectors without going through a procurement process.

Senior counsel for Venn, Nemeth and Hart (VNH) Gerhard Roberts submitted that his clients was caught in the crossfire of what was going on at the municipality and that there was no evidence that his clients acted untowardly, maliciously or subjectively both as debt collectors and legal representatives.

Schumann noted that Van der Merwe had agreed with everything Roberts said. He said this would include senior counsel’s statement that the problem in dealing with rates issues at uMngeni was the ineptitude of the finance department.

It emerged at the commission that there was very weak oversight by councillors. Schumann said it was correct that oversight was not properly done, but that did not exonerate officials who did not comply with the legislation.

Van der Merwe began his testimony calling the Ubuntu Forensic Investigation and the commission of inquiry a complete waste of taxpayers’ money. He implied that he and Vilakazi were being singled out and described certain KZN Co-operative Governance officials as arrogant.

Van Der Merwe continues with his testimony today.

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