Council meeting closed after walkout

2013-06-04 21:29
Nomusa Dube. (Picture: GCIS)

Nomusa Dube. (Picture: GCIS)

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Durban - Claims by the KwaZulu-Natal government that a controversial forensic audit was not being kept secret, failed to stop a walkout from an eThekwini municipal council meeting on Tuesday.

The audit - prepared by Manase and Associates - was commissioned about two years ago by KwaZulu-Natal MEC Nomusa Dube, who released recommendations emanating from the full report on Tuesday.

Dube told reporters that, after she had presented the recommendations to a closed session of council, the full report could be obtained by making an application to her department under the Promotion of Access to Information Act.

However, representatives of the DA, National Freedom Party (NFP), the Minority Front (MF), Cope, and the ANC walked out before she even made the presentation.

The morning council meeting was closed.

Security barred the press and members of the public from entering the public gallery at Durban City Hall.

An abridged version of the report was released to the council by KwaZulu-Natal Co-operative Governance MEC Dube last February. The city was supposed to release its full contents last July.

Full report not released

However, on 1 August, Mayor James Nxumalo said the full report would not be released, as this would prejudice those involved.

At the time, Nxumalo said the municipality was hoping to make the full report public by the end of December, when all disciplinary processes had been completed.

The probe was instituted after auditor general Terence Nombembe said in his 2009/10 report that the municipality had irregularly spent R532m.

Accusations against a number of senior officials were made, including former municipal manager Mike Sutcliffe.

According to Nombembe's report, 10 councillors had business interests with entities conducting business with the eThekwini municipality.

DA councillor Heinz de Boer said it had emerged at the meeting that Dube would not release the full report, but would deliver a progress report with recommendations.

"We are not interested in updates. We are not going to be complicit in them covering it up any more; that is the reason we walked out of there.

"How do you accept recommendations on a report that you have not seen?" he asked.

In a statement released later on Tuesday, IFP caucus leader Mdu Nkosi said: "[We]... reject the progress report released today. This is not the Manase report which the taxpayers have been waiting for."

He said the IFP would bring a court challenge against the municipality's failure to release the full report. IFP members did not walk out.

Media reports

At her news conference, Dube accused the media of siding with opposition parties when reporting on the controversial 700-page report.

"Today, we officially announce that the report on the recommendation of the Manase Investigation is officially available to members of the public. The report has not been doctored or watered-down or sanitised in anyway," she said.

Dube said of the 10 councillors found to be doing business with the municipality, three had been fined.

All 10, some of whom were no longer councillors and some of whom had since died, were ANC members.

One of them was Stanley Xulu, the ANC's chief whip in the council, who was fined R195 000.

According to the report on the recommendations, there was sufficient evidence that former mayor Obed Mlaba had some involvement in a tender for waste reduction plant at one of the city's landfill sites

Dube said it had been recommended that the tender be cancelled, but that no action could be taken against Mlaba as he was no longer a councillor.

It was not spelled out exactly what Mlaba was alleged to have done wrong.

Tenders

Former municipal manager Mike Sutcliffe was accused of not reporting irregular expenditure, in writing, to Mlaba, Dube or Nombembe.

He was also accused of contravening the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Act by not promptly reporting the irregular awarding of a tender for a housing project to the police.

The report on the recommendations suggested that the R1.1m that the city was said to have lost be recovered from "companies and individuals involved in this fraud".

When asked whether this included Sutcliffe, Dube said Sutcliffe was not being pursued criminally or through a civil claim.

Last year, Sutcliffe's successor S'bu Sithole said he would lay charges against Sutcliffe in an attempt to recover R1.1m in revenue lost to the city as a result of his failure to report the fraud and corruption cited in the Manase findings.

Sutcliffe is suing Sithole for damages.

DA caucus leader Zwakele Mncwango said the party had made three applications to Dube's department for the full Manase report and its annexures, under the Promotion of Access to Information Act.

There had been no response to date, he said.

Read more on:    nfp  |  cope  |  da  |  anc  |  minority front  |  ifp  |  nomusa dube  |  mike sutcliffe  |  james nxumalo  |  durban  |  corruption

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