Forensic report divides Mbizana

2012-05-19 15:28

Probe implicates council staff, sparks rumours of assassination plots, death threats

A forensic report into alleged ­misappropriation of R20 million in council funds has plunged an Eastern Cape municipality into disarray.

Now rumours are flying of assassination plots and death threats, and some claim that the Mbizana Local Municipality is trying to keep the report under wraps.

The municipality’s council had to hold three meetings before they could even agree to view a presentation about its financial affairs over the past three years.

This reticence was despite the council itself having called for a forensic investigation last September.
The Mbizana Local Municipality is located in the politically powerful OR Tambo District Municipality in the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast region.

Insiders say the council is now divided over the report, which has implicated several employees in ­alleged maladministration.

These include the region’s former municipal manager, other senior managers and staff, and a few sitting councillors.

Mbizana’s current municipal manager, Simpiwe Tobela, says he received death threats after appointing Johannesburg-based firm Audit and Risk Management ­Solutions (Arms) to conduct the investigation.

Some of the issues highlighted by the investigation, which covers the 2008/09 and 2010/11 financial years, include:

» Municipal officials processed payment for three HIV officers for three years without written instruction. The officers were not contractually employed by the municipality. The payroll officer who made the payments was the same person ­responsible for loading the employees on to the council’s system, the report found.

» One woman, named in the ­report, worked as a cashier and ­supervisor, and between August 2009 and April 2010 allegedly took R 1 807 639.19 that was due to the Eastern Cape department of transport and municipality.

» The report recommends that criminal and civil proceedings be instituted against several employees, including the cashier and the former municipal manager.

» In December 2010, the report alleges, the cashier also could not account for R 122 722.98 from eNaTiS transactions.

» The investigators found that cashiers could process and reverse transactions without the intervention of the supervisor.

» The municipality gave out 14 tenders, valued at R 17 270 467, ­allegedly with total disregard for the advertised criteria. These ­tenders included road construction projects in which the budget was increased for no apparent ­reason or the scope of work was ­decreased without the budget ­being adjusted downwards.

» A councillor named in the ­report allegedly authorised payment to her son’s consultancy company, which did work for the municipality. This was despite the fact that the project was never completed, investigators found.

Arms’s mandate in its investigation was, among other things, to identify instances of maladministration, identify gaps and weaknesses in internal controls, identify non-compliance with legislation, and confirm cash in the municipality’s bank accounts and the sources of revenue it collected.

Tobela refused to discuss the ­report, saying it had endangered his life.

“Various people have told me about a plot to kill me, and I’ve been receiving threatening e-mails and phone calls since February,” he told City Press.

"Right now I’m paying for my own security and I have ­informed the municipality that I won’t be coming to work any more until they can guarantee my ­safety,” he said.

Councillor Macalonke Ndesi of the DA confirmed that there were fractures in the council over the ­report.

He said some ANC councillors wanted the report tabled and discussed, while others wanted to suppress it.

“We have lost a lot of money in the past four years and there are lots of names said to be involved in corruption.

“We want to get to the bottom of this sooner than later,” he said.

The mayor of Mbizana, Zoleka Busuku, denied that some of her councillors wanted the report to be kept under wraps.

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