Thaba Chweu Municipality: 2 nabbed for missing traffic-fine millions

2013-10-16 17:59

Two officials in the cash-strapped Thaba Chweu Municipality in Mpumalanga are in hot water after they were arrested for allegedly siphoning off about R9 million from the town’s traffic department.

Jacob Phala and Jubane Mthombothi were accused of pocketing revenue raised through traffic fines, said Hawks spokesperson Captain Paul Ramoloko.

Phala is acting manager for the Thusong Centre, while Mthombothi is a traffic cop.

Ramoloko said the Mpumalanga department of safety and security realised that it was not getting its 80% share of traffic-related payments from Thaba Chweu in Lydenburg and decided to launch an investigation through the integrity management unit in Premier David Mabuza’s office.

“It was found that R9 million was not accounted for. The suspects would take payments from public members and then cancel tickets and other documents. They knew what they were doing,” he said.

The duo has appeared in the Lydenburg Magistrates’ Court on fraud charges and they were released on R10 000 bail each. The case was postponed to November 14 for further investigation.

Thaba Chweu Municipality is on the brink of collapse and has failed to pay most of its bills, including R146 million owed to power utility Eskom, and has used municipal infrastructure grants to pay salaries.

Eskom threatened to cut off the supply to the whole Thaba Chweu area, but backtracked two days ago after the intervention of Mabuza’s office, which is negotiating on the municipality’s behalf.

Mabuza has sent a team to help Thaba Chweu get back on its feet. Thaba Chweu has received disclaimers of opinion from the Auditor-General over the past four financial years. Its officials have also been taking questionable decisions that include paying security companies to guard rubbish at a landfill site, an electric transformer and a police station at Mashishing township. Read: Thaba Chweu’s weird spending The municipality spends about R32.4 milion a year on security services. It also pays for 24-hour protection for two councillors, which insiders said was not justified.

Documents that City Press has perused indicate that the municipality has been a cash cow for employees.

They indicate that Mayor Michael Ncongwane’s personal assistant, Mxolisi Sibanyoni, has been doing business with the municipality to print calendars and business cards.

Ncongwane has been accused in a complaint sent to cooperative governance and traditional affairs MEC Simon Skhosana of abusing his official vehicle by going to funerals and weddings at taxpayers’ expense.

In April, reads the complaint, Ncongwane used the Mercedes-Benz to travel to Phuthaditjhaba in the Free State to pay his son’s lobola.

The council’s former chief whip, Paul Mogotsenyana (34), resigned for the second time last month after claiming that there was “too much corruption” in the municipality.

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