Investigating municipality's corruption

2010-07-15 00:00

KUGESH Naidoo, a partner of Dobeyn Administrators who performed the second investigation into the suspected maladministration and corruption at the uMngeni Municipality, cuts a lonely and uncomfortable figure as he is questioned on his findings by the senior counsel of the Premier’s Commission of Inquiry.

Dobeyn Administrators is the firm that was employed by the municipality to redo the investigation that was done in 2007 by Ubuntu Forensics into alleged maladministration and corruption, and deals to a large extent with the purchase of the infamous Hilton house and the management’s car allowances and bonuses.

Matthew Francis of Venn Nemeth and Hart had given the municipality the legal opinion that the Ubuntu report was “tainted with illegality” and as a result the Dobeyn report states in its preamble, that, for this reason, they felt “it would not have been proper” to utilise this information, so 124 pages of report and interview transcriptions and three files of supporting evidence were disregarded.

Dobeyn Administrators’ detailed report, which totals 30 pages (double spacing) and cost the uMngeni ratepayer R467 000, has not stood up to scrutiny. Advocate Vusi Khuzwayo, who is heading the Premier’s Commission of Inquiry, was at pains to determine what had given Naidoo the impression that council had approved the purchase of the house at 1 Mimosa Drive, Hilton. The answer given by Naidoo was that the payment for the house was included in an adjustment budget that was approved by the council’s ANC majority at the end of April 2007. The fact that this was a full three months after the property was transferred to the municipality seemed to him to be of little importance.

The fact, as reported in The Witness on July 13, that Naidoo did not question the municipal manager’s assertion that he drove more than 6 000 kilometres a month on municipal business and on occasion had exceeded 10 000 km, belies a naïve trust. A quick glance at the Ubuntu report would have provided proof, based on historical official mileage claims, that the municipal manager travelled less than 2 000 km a month.

The question needs to be asked whether the Dobeyn investigation could ever have been anything more than an unsubtle attempt to exonerate the municipal officials who were fingered in the Ubuntu investigation.

The first warning sign to Naidoo that all was not above board should have been the fact that within a couple of days of their appointment, The Witness broke the highly detailed story of the contents of the Ubuntu report together with photographs of those implicated, yet Dobeyn Administrators were apparently not privy to its contents.

The second red flag should have been that the only municipal employees whom he interviewed were those implicated in the Ubuntu report. Naidoo mentioned more than once in his report that he only interviewed the mayor, three councillors (one from each political party represented in council), the chief financial officer and the municipal manager. Leaving aside the political overtones in the councillor selection, municipal employees from various departments and service providers are the obvious people who are in a position to provide information with regards to suspected maladministration and corruption.

Naidoo admitted to the commission of inquiry that all his supporting documentation was given to him in a box by Bertus van der Merwe, the chief financial officer. This should have been the third sign that something was amiss. Why did he not get his own documentation? Why rely on the information supplied by a person so heavily implicated?

Could the Dobeyn report ever have achieved what the municipal manager and the chief financial officer had hoped for — an exoneration of the maladministration and/or corruption alleged in the Ubuntu report? The short answer is “Yes”.

At the time that the Dobeyn investigation took place, the Premier’s Commission of Inquiry was hardly a blip on the radar. It would be fair to say that never in their wildest dreams did the uMngeni municipal management imagine that their protestations that the premier and not the MEC should have commissioned an inquiry would be taken seriously. Did Dobeyn Administrators ever imagine that their R467 000 municipal contract, which must have seemed like easy money, would have such a sting in its tail?

• Pam Passmoor is the DA caucus leader for uMngeni Municipality.

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