City to charge Haswell

2011-04-12 00:00

THE embattled Msunduzi Municipality is now investigating instituting criminal charges against former municipal manager Rob Haswell, as well as some managers who worked under him, for their alleged role in the collapse of KZN’s capital municipality last year.

This was revealed by Msunduzi administrator Sibusiso Sithole during a media conference held at the City Hall yesterday.

The conference was held to update the public on progress made so far in the municipality’s forensic investigations into its financial collapse in May last year.

The municipality was put under provincial administration almost a year ago after its financial situation was found to be in a dire state.

Haswell resigned afterwards.

Top municipal managers who were reporting to Haswell at the time were suspended after serious allegations of mismanagement and corruption were levelled against them.

The ANC, as the ruling party in the municipality, removed all senior politicians, including mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo, deputy mayor Marvin Dirks and executive committee member Themba Zungu, while council speaker Alpha Shelembe was removed from his position and demoted to an ordinary councillor.

Sithole said that if their investigations do not open up possibilities to charge Haswell and his lieutenants with fraud, corruption or maladministration, the municipality will investigate charging those involved with the transgressions of provisions enacted in the Municipal Financial Management Act ­(MFMA).

Section 73 of chapter 54 of the MFMA stipulates a number of criminal charges that can be laid against accounting officers in municipalities, such as failure to take reasonable steps to implement the municipality’s supply chain management (SCM) policy and failure to take all reasonable steps to prevent unauthorised, irregular or fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

It also deals with failure to take all reasonable steps to prevent corrupt practices in the management of the municipality’s assets and in the implementation of municipality’s SCM policy.

According to section 74 of chapter 54 of the MFMA, a person is liable, if convicted of an offence in terms of section 173, to imprisonment not exceeding five years or to an appropriate fine determined in terms of applicable legislation.

Commenting on actions to be taken against those fingered by forensic investigations, Sithole said: “There is no way that we can commission forensic investigations and not act on the findings and recommendations that transpire from that process.

“We are prepared to go all out and move even faster in cleaning the city of corruption of any kind.”

Sithole said the suspension of three officials — Rakesh Singh, Thavandree Gounder and Tyrone Ashby — from the SCM with immediate effect last Thursday, was due to allegations contained in the forensic report. These officials will face charges related to breaking the municipality's SCM policies.

An employee at their home in Scottsville said the Haswells are on holiday in Namibia and will be back next week.

Since the start of the investigation, about 34 cases are being investigated against 34 employees at management level and lower levels, Sithole said.

He said those suspended for over three months will come back to work and face disciplinary processes while at work, except for section 57 managers.

"Very shortly disciplinary action will be taken against employees who illegally sold sites and houses within the greater Edendale area. All these matters are part of completed forensic reports."

On electricity theft, Sithole said an announcement will be made in due course as more evidence emerged after the suspension of Ajay Beharie, credit control manager in the municipality.

"We are pushing to finalise all disciplinary hearings by the end of June."

Since the start of the investigation four employees have resigned while two others were dismissed after disciplinary processes. Ben Dorfling, part of a provincial team deployed in the municipality, said it will take two to three years for the situation at the municipality to return to normal.

With the current collection rate standing at 73% from the previous 53%, Sithole said cash flow problems has stabilised, "although we want to reach a 95% revenue collection rate in the next few months. The majority of government departments' accounts are also now operating on a current base, he said.


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