Internal Audit head booted

2016-04-11 12:58
Dr Ray Ngcobo.

Dr Ray Ngcobo. (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

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AS investigators attached to various probes prepare to comb city hall to untangle the intricate web of accusations and counter accusations there, yet another high profile official has been suspended.

In a bizarre twist, the head of Msunduzi’s Internal Audit Unit Petrus Mahlaba has been suspended by the very officials he has been instrumental in investigating.

And, in yet another sensational turn of events, it has been alleged that Mahlaba was subjected to bullying tactics by council officials, including Dr Ray Ngcobo, which resulted in him reporting an incident of intimidation at Alexandra Road police station on Friday night. (See story on page 3)

Msunduzi DA mayoral candidate Mergan Chetty yesterday said the municipality had tried to serve Mahlaba with a letter of intention to suspend him, signed by the acting municipal manager Boniwe Zulu.

The Witness recently revealed that Mahlaba had fingered Zulu as the head of community services as well as the process manager for risk management Kwenza Khumalo in a report he prepared on the substantial overpayment — to the tune of almost R8,5 million — to Khuselani Security Risk Management (KSA) by Msunduzi (see page 4).

In the report, Mahlaba suggested the officials who were responsible for the administration of this contract and who certified and approve payments “had ulterior motives”.

He recommended that disciplinary action be instituted against Zulu and Khumalo among others and that the matter be referred for civil recovery and referred to the SIU. He also recommended that the accounting officer report the matter to the police as irregular expenditure constitutes a criminal offence and because “theft and fraud” occurred in the municipality.

The report is yet to be tabled before council.

The Witness subsequently discovered that Dr Ray Ngcobo was the official who was trying to serve the letter on Mahlaba.

Approached for comment, Ngcobo said he had been acting on the acting MM’s instruction as she was out of town.

“Mahlaba was called to the office to be served with the suspension, but he did not pitch up. It was important that I carried that out.”

Ngcobo, himself facing a disciplinary hearing that relies on information against him gathered by Mahlaba, said Mahlaba was lying if he said he was not suspended.

“We served the letter to his house and it was received by one of his sons.”

He denied that there was any bullying tactics in the serving of the letter, saying that Mahlaba knows the officials that were serving the letter as he worked with them on a daily basis.

“This is not because of what has been reported on or because of my own disciplinary matter. These issues stem from 2012/2013. I wasn’t even there. There will be challenges but service delivery is continuing at Msunduzi.”

Chetty yesterday expressed concern over Friday’s events, saying, “Due to the unravelling of the report the investigations have now taken a serious turn for the worse.

“It is alleged that Mahlaba was followed by a Fortuner while he was driving and was chased.

“He had reason to believe that he was being threatened and was scared for what would happen. He did not stop his car but was cut off on the road and informed that there was a letter of suspension by Boniwe Zulu and that he had to accept it. But he did not accept the letter. They tried to force it upon him. He refused to accept it and drove off and went to the station to report it,” said Chetty.

“Once he got to the police station he made contact with his house and they were at his house to deliver the letter of suspension. He told them at home not to accept because he was not there,” said Chetty.

Chetty said, “The mafia-style tactics of this ANC-led municipality must stop. We need to clean the city. It can’t be that some high-ranking people can hold the city to ransom and use it how they please with no respect for the residents.”

Chetty said if these allegations were true, the MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nomusa Dube-Ncube must investigate and give serious consideration to placing the city under administration.

Approached for comment yesterday, Mahlaba said, “I have been advised not to talk [to media] until I have spoken to my attorney.”

He said he may release a statement after discussing the matter with his attorney who was out of town yesterday.

Asked whether he had been suspended, he said, “I have not received a letter of suspension.”

However, a message from Zulu, which was leaked to The Witness said, “After considering a lot of issues, I have suspended Mr Mahlaba with immediate effect starting from yesterday. He is not allowed to be in any of the Municipal buildings until further notice.”

This is the text of a message sent to a senior council member by Mahlaba which was leaked to The Witness.

“Drama ensued when a suspicious white Toyota Fortuna with tinted windows registered as GP followed [me] on my way home in the afternoon. I went past my home because of this suspicious vehicle but it continued to follow me around Lincoln Meade until [they] overtook me [at] a high speed and blocked me from the front on the road. A guy who introduced himself .... alighted and flashes what looked like a municipal identity card & 2 other unknown guys alighted from the vehicle and [were] followed by Ray Ngcobo with a brown envelope & he informed me that he had been asked [by] Boniwe to serve me. Whilst he was taking out what looked a like a white document I told him that I cannot take any document as I was off duty. The other guys came closer to the driver’s door. I drove [at] a high speed and Ray tried to push a document through an open window on the driver’s side but it fell down as [I] continued driving in a high speed. I drove straight to Alexandra Police Station to report the incident. When I called home the kids told me that they were at the door [of] my house with [the] document. I instructed my kids not to take it. This [is] harassment and makes me feel unsafe in my own house as I don’t know these other guys. This happened when I was off duty. Is a senior official of the municipality allowed to do this with impunity taking into account the fact that I had made certain pronouncements on his conduct which resulted in continuous disciplinary enquiry and that I am pursuing further serious investigations of nepotism against him. Where is the protection the Audit Committee asked that we be given on Tuesday? Mahlaba

Acting municipal spokesperson Nqobile Madonda said yesterday that allegations that one of its senior staff members was subjected to intimidation, allegedly by other members of the municipality, would need to be investigated.

“The municipality is not aware of any alleged act, or acts, of intimidation. Indeed, no complaint has been lodged with Council or, as far as I am aware, with any municipal structures that deal with matters of this sort.”

Asked if Mahlaba was suspended, Madonda said he had been.

“This, as you and all employees ought to know, is an internal matter.”

Asked about how the letter was handed to him, she said, “I am not aware of the exact details relating to the service of the letter of suspension. Suffice to say, this was an administrative process and it is expected that any service would have been effected in accordance with the dictates of the law and the prevailing circumstances.

“Suspensions are the prerogative of the municipality, as the employer. I might add that the decision to suspend is not taken lightly but only after due consideration of all the pertinent facts.”

Asked if the municipality was concerned that this could be seen as an act of retribution following the fact that Zulu was fingered in the KSA report by Mahlaba, she said, “Regardless of what perceptions may or may not be, the municipality acts in what is in the best interests of the municipality. It does not act capriciously, arbitrarily, or out of a sense of “retribution”. The so-called “report by Mahlaba” is an internal, untested report that was not circulated to, or assented by, any internal structure of the municipality; the “report” reflects, at best, Mr Mahlaba’s personal views. It is thus reckless to associate matters that are unrelated.”

Asked what the municipality will do to safeguard Mahlaba, Madonda said, “The municipality is not aware that Mr Mahlaba is under threat. He certainly has not contacted, or approached, the municipality in this regard. Mr Mahlaba, as a long-standing employee of the municipality knows, or ought to know, the protocols in place to deal with issues of employee safety. He is urged to contact either myself or Human Resources if he is of the view that he requires appropriate assistance.”

Madonda added, “It would be unfortunate indeed if the media provides public space to deal with what are essentially employee-employer matters. The media is not a municipal employer and should not, as a general rule, serve as a platform for disgruntled employees. As you well know, there are always at least two sides to a story. The Witness should not, and must not, take on the mantle of arbitrator of employee/employer disputes.”

The initial list of questions sent to Msunduzi elicited a very brief response, but after The Witness called Zulu to ask her to expand on the replies given, a more fulsome response was received via Madonda.

CITY manager Mxolisi Nkosi was suspended on March 4 pending an investigation by Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube into maladministration and financial misconduct.

The council voted for the deputy municipal manager for Community Services, Boniwe Zulu, to be the acting municipal manager.

Ray Ngcobo, the man named by Nkosi as the culprit behind “financial misconduct and maladministration” faces serious disciplinary charges, but has never been suspended.

Ngcobo faces two charges of gross misconduct, two charges of gross ­dishonesty and a charge of gross ­negligence.

His disciplinary hearing has been ongoing for over a year.

Read more on:    msunduzi municipality  |  pietermaritzburg  |  audit

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