Scott accuses DA of tarnishing her name

2014-02-28 00:00

ANC MPL Belinda Scott yesterday accused the Democratic Alliance of trying to tarnish her name by blaming her for a non-rent paying bungle.

The eThekwini Municipality yesterday took full responsibility for the administrative mistake that led to the non-payment of rent for office space in Hillcrest occupied by Scott since 2010.

It emerged this week that a city official who had been dealing with Scott had passed away and the lease process had never been followed up.

DA caucus leader Zwakele Mncwango said his party raised the rental issue at the Municipal Public Accounts Committee (MPAC) meeting recently.

“If our members had not raised the matter, how long would it have taken for action to be taken? Evaluation must be done to get the market value for that office, and then payment can be arranged. Strydom is no more so he won’t be able to state his side of the deal,” said Mncwango.

He said Scott was tarnishing her own name because “if she was a woman of integrity she would have tried harder to get the matter resolved”.

Scott said she had raised the rental issue several times.

“I have left our accountant’s number with the municipality as I don’t handle hard cash meant for the constituency. We are billed and the accountant handles payment,” said Scott.

According to a report tabled at an executive council meeting in Pinetown on Tuesday, the office space in Hillcrest’s Sizakala Centre was leased to Scott, the legislature’s finance portfolio committee chairperson.

The report states that the lease commenced from 1 February 2010 at a rental rate of R1 026 per month, with an annual escalation of 10% and a right to renew for a further two years.

Instructions were given by former city manager Mike Sutcliffe to the late Gerard Strydom, the then head of real estate, to lease the office space.

The report, drafted and signed by Sipho Cele, deputy city manager of governance, alleges that there was an attempt by Strydom to have the lease agreement conducted between the city and the KZN legislature.

Strydom was advised that constituency offices were the responsibility of party whips and that Scott would have to enter into a lease agreement in her own name, according to the report.

The lease was never signed as Strydom took ill and died.

Exco on Tuesday resolved to authorise the head of real estate to sign a lease agreement with Scott and for the latter to pay rent backdated to February 1, 2010.

Yesterday, Cele said, “The problem is that we failed to follow procedure on the administrative side. We became aware of this when it was raised at the MPAC recently and we have to take full responsibility. We found a draft of the lease in Strydom’s office so that’s what we are working on.” He said although it was not her fault, Scott had committed to paying the outstanding rent.

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