Msunduzi council wants R10m back

2017-02-01 07:33
Msunduzi sues former manager for improper and unlawfully awarding a contract.

Msunduzi sues former manager for improper and unlawfully awarding a contract. (File)

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Pietermaritzburg - Msunduzi Municipality is suing former municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi for more than R10 million for allegedly hiring a company unlawfully.

In an affidavit signed by the city’s acting municipal manager Sizwe Hadebe, the council raised questions around the hiring of Moteko Cost Consultants and Project Managers in March 2015.

Moteko was awarded a 36-month contract to deliver and implement infrastructure and maintenance projects in the city.

The court action, brought in December last year to the High Court in Pietermaritzburg, is based on allegations of improper and unlawful awarding of a state contract by virtue of non-compliance; and various other grounds pertaining to the “abuse” of Nkosi’s discretion.

When contacted, Nkosi and Moteko said they could not comment on the matter.

Msunduzi municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said the matter was sub judice and she could not comment further other than what was in the court documents.

In his affidavit, Hadebe said Nkosi’s personal assistant and manager of his office at that time, Madeleine Jackson-Plaaitjies, prepared a report to Nkosi seeking approval for Moteko to be contracted. He said the report stated that the municipality was in a “very precarious” position and ran the risk of not meeting its targets for capital expenditure by the end of the financial year in June 2015.

The report was approved by Nkosi, but Hadebe said he believed the report was dictated by Nkosi and merely presented through Jackson-Plaaitjies “for a purpose of creating a recommendation that he could rubber stamp”.

“Irrespective of the contents of the report, Nkosi already resolved to appoint Moteko,” Hadebe said in his affidavit. He added that he was uncertain of the motives “but Nkosi’s decision was not taken solely on the municipality’s interests”.

According to municipal bylaws, contracts with the expected value of more than R200 000 require a comprehensive bidding process from no fewer than three independent service providers, but that allegedly did not happen.

“Once Nkosi approved it, then the head of the Supply Chain Management Dudu Gambu was expected to approve the appointment.

“Gambu was concerned the appointment entailed side-stepping the usual procedures,” Hadebe said.

He said he believed Nkosi and Jackson-Plaaitjies negotiated the remuneration to be paid to Moteko without following proper procedures and the amount was not “advantageous” to the municipality.

Moteko was initially appointed from March 1, 2015 for three months. After the three-month contract, Moteko prepared a report on the work they had done, but Hadebe said Gambu was not pleased with the report.

“Nkosi asked Gambu to give him a chance and Nkosi then unilaterally resolved to extend the contract to 36 months,” he said.

Hadebe said in the letter of appointment, Moteko was told to liaise directly with Jackson-Plaaitjies.

“Gambu was consulted for show and her advice was ignored,” Hadebe said.

He said there were no clear financial advantages for the municipality and Moteko’s performance was poor.

Up until December, Hadebe said the amounts paid to Moteko totalled R10 475 572,38.

Hadebe explained why it took the municipality more than six months to bring the court action, saying that although Gambu and other officials were aware of the questionable validity of contracts, they were unable to take any steps against Nkosi.

“Gambu expressed criticism of Nkosi’s actions on several occasions and reported it to the municipal internal audit unit,” Hadebe said.

He said that since the internal audit allegedly did not investigate Nkosi’s actions, the head of the unit Petrus Mahlaba was suspended.

“I must point out there was a culture of fear at the municipality, even among senior officials. Nkosi did not tolerate dissent and invariably gave instructions to officials to implement his decisions, even when they expressed disagreement,” Hadebe said.

He said that over time “a number” of municipal officials lodged anonymous complaints about Nkosi’s conduct, which led to Cogta launching an investigation into the municipality. He said after contacting Moteko’s attorneys, the municipality had “no choice” but to bring forward court action.

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