Full municipal control to man who spent R20m on bodyguards

2014-10-09 12:09

Mpumalanga’s cabinet has extended the contract of the Emalahleni administrator and given him total control of the municipality even though he splurged millions on bodyguards.

Administrator Theo van Vuuren’s contract will now run until March next year.

All the powers of the executive mayor, Salome Sithole, and the mayoral committee have been delegated to Van Vuuren, which means he has taken over the municipality.

Van Vuuren’s hiring of more than 20 bodyguards without following tender procedures in 2013 to protect him and senior managers angered the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) and it accused him of being corrupt.

The bodyguards were hired after Samwu members marched former municipal manager, George Mthimunye, out of the council building on February 14 2013, because they believed he was corrupt.

The bodyguards cost the municipality an arm and a leg. City Press has seen financial statements showing that Guardian Group charged Emalahleni R20.3?million from February 28 2013 to May 21 this year.

Read: Man sent in to fix municipality spends R20m on bodyguards

Mpumalanga government spokesperson Zibonele Mncwango said Van Vuuren’s contract had to be extended because the municipality was not yet ready to be placed back in the hands of the council.

“Cabinet felt that there are lots of things that need to be tightened up and the administrator’s powers were therefore increased so that in six months’ time the municipality can be handed back to council,” Mncwango said.

Emalahleni was put under administration to improve its finance management and to deal with the area’s mushrooming informal settlements as well as water, sanitation and electricity backlogs.

Samwu alleged that the cabinet took Sithole’s powers because she had launched an investigation into corruption, including the hiring of the bodyguards.

“The cabinet surprised us. We thought the mayor’s investigation would expose all the wrongs the administrator has been doing,” the union’s Emalahleni chairperson Vusi Pilson said.

Municipal spokesperson, Lebohang Mofokeng, said that the council had requested both Sithole and Van Vuuren to investigate the high level of overtime expenditure and possible irregularities regarding purchases for a specific month.

“There are a number of inaccuracies contained in the [Samwu] statement. A team was appointed to conduct the investigation … the administrator will continue with the finalisation of this process and will report back to the council on this matter,” said Mofokeng.

Mncwango said that the Bushbuckridge municipality had been handed back to its council after being placed under administration 18 months ago.

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