Exclusive: PMB boss’s ‘dodgy deals’

2016-03-16 12:52
Dr Ray Ngcobo.

Dr Ray Ngcobo. (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - The man named by suspended municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi as the culprit behind “financial misconduct and maladministration” in the municipality is already facing serious disciplinary charges, but has never been suspended.

Nkosi named the deputy municipal manager of economic development, Dr Ray Ngcobo — whose full name is Raymond Mfanukhona Ngcobo — at a special full council meeting shortly before he was suspended two weeks ago.

Ngcobo faces two charges of gross misconduct, two charges of gross ­dishonesty and a charge of gross ­negligence. The disciplinary hearing, being conducted by Msunduzi Municipality, has been ongoing for over a year.

According to the charge sheet, which was leaked to The Witness, Ngcobo is accused of ordering furniture for the city’s Tourism Hub ­“without following the municipality’s supply chain management processes”.

He also allegedly paid close to R7 million to a company, ostensibly ­contracted to provide temporary housing for the Jika Joe project, but which had not delivered on the contract.

Allied to those two charges, Ngcobo is accused of inciting other municipal staff to engage in unprocedural and ­unlawful conduct, financial ­misconduct, and of improperly using his position and influence.

R7 million payment for nothing

According to the charge sheet, Ngcobo caused “irregular, fruitless, ­unauthorised and wasteful ­expenditure” in December 2013 when he recommended for approval ­payment of R6 962 503,04 to a company named as Fairfield Developments.

The city’s strategic management committee had not authorised the ­recommendation that Fairfield should be bridge-funded from unspent grants “for any reason whatsoever”. The ­recommendation was made by ­Ngcobo and his department.

However, the charge sheet states that Ngcobo “misrepresented” that the payment be made for the construction of temporary housing at Jika Joe, “thus creating a false impression that the payment was for a service ... when in fact the payment was essentially an upfront payment ... contrary to the ­resolution of the SMC”. It is unclear what the upfront payment was for.

The document states that by ­creating the false impression that ­Fairfield had constructed temporary houses for Jika Joe, he caused the ­municipal manager to authorise ­payment of almost R7 million.

“They would not have authorised [payment] ... had you not disclosed the real fact that no service has actually been rendered by Fairfield and that the invoice was essentially an upfront payment to them,” the charge sheet reads.

Ordering furniture for Tourism Hub

According to the charge sheet, Ngcobo directed the Msunduzi Pietermaritzburg Tourism Association to purchase furniture, using municipal funds, for the Freedom Square Tourism Hub in June or July 2014. The tax invoice for the furniture, which The Witness has a copy of, shows furniture ordered for R294 686,58 and states that this was done “as per discussion with Dr Ray Ngcobo”.

Those municipal funds were ­“specifically and exclusively” budgeted for a specific project which did not ­include the purchase of furniture.

Ngobo is alleged to have ­subsequently instructed employees under his control to purchase the furniture without following the proper supply chain management procedures.

“Further, through your [Ngcobo’s] conduct, you purported to represent the municipality in a transaction with a service provider, when you knew … you had no power to do so,” reads the charge sheet. That power lies with the supply chain management section.

According to a source close to the municipality, the furniture was ­delivered to the Tourism Hub, but ­because no payment was ever made, it was repossessed two weeks ago.

“You [Ngcobo] committed ­financial misconduct by instructing other municipal staff members to make an unauthorised irregular, ­fruitless and wasteful expenditure …” reads the charge sheet.

Ngcobo allegedly tried to facilitate payment to the furniture company by invoking the “deviation procedure” in an attempt to regularise his actions.

Why was Ngcobo not suspended?

A list of questions surrounding the ­allegations and disciplinary hearing was sent to Ngcobo this week; Ngcobo said he could not discuss the matter as it was sub judice. He told The ­Witness he was “reminded of the ­protocol in the municipality”, which states he cannot speak to the media directly, and all communication must be done via the city’s spokesperson.

The Witness asked the municipality why Ngcobo’s disciplinary hearing had taken more than a year so far, and why he was not suspended during the ­proceedings.

Acting municipal spokesperson Nqobile Madonda said, “Employee ­relations matters, especially those ­relating to disciplinary issues, are strictly between the employer and employee, and as such will not be discussed in the public space or media.”

According to sources working under Ngcobo’s command at Msunduzi, the office is “intense”.

“Some of us are witnesses in his ­disciplinary, yet we have to face him every day,” said a worker who did not want to be named.

The employee said the usual ­practice if someone is under investigation and undergoing a disciplinary hearing, is that they are suspended.

“Why has he not been suspended? How do we work under someone we are testifying against?” asked the worker.

• kailene.pillay@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  fraud

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