Mystery uMngeni raid

2012-02-01 00:00

MYSTERY surrounds a raid at uMngeni Municipality this week in which computers and documents in the finance department were removed.

Staff are convinced that it was the Hawks who swooped down on the council and they have not been told differently by their managers.

A senior employee, whose name is known to The Witness, was seen being marched off the premises.

Staff later heard that his house was also raided and computers confiscated.

The employee could not be reached for comment last night.

However, by late yesterday afternoon acting uMngeni municipal manager, Hector Buthelezi, said it was not the Hawks who conducted the raid, but staff from Provincial Treasury.

“We are the ones who actually called for the Provincial Treasury to assist the municipality after our internal audit unit discovered irregularities regarding the procurement of IT equipment.”

Buthelezi said they had been on to this since last year and the investigation should have started in November 2011.

“But we had to wait for KZN Treasury to intervene because we do not have the capacity to conduct such an investigation,” he added.

He confirmed that an IT manager had been suspended. Buthelezi said the suspension was precautionary to allow the investigation to continue unhampered.

“We cannot rule out a possibility of more suspensions that could follow depending on the outcome of the investigation,” he said.

Buthelezi said they had requested Treasury to take about four computers that they believe should be investigated thoroughly.

Computers from the finance department were taken, including those used by the cashiers. One computer was left so that work could continue. Documents in the cashiers’ section were removed.

However, questions have been raised about Treasury’s role in the investigation and about the need to remove computers, when a Treasury intervention team had worked at the municipality in the past.

Spokesperson for KZN Treasury Ntokozo Maphisa confirmed there is an investigation under way that was requested by the municipality.

“We cannot comment on the nature of the investigation because it can jeopardise it. At the request of the municipality we can take documents and laptops which the municipality believes can help with the investigation, but we do not have the authority to carry out a search and seizure,” said Maphisa.

The local chairperson of the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu), Nomusa Mncube, welcomed yesterday’s developments, saying six months ago they marched against corruption at the municipality.

“We pleaded with the MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nomsa Dube, to take us seriously by involving the Hawks to investigate further,” Mncu­be said.

Attempts to get hold of uMngeni Mayor Mbali Myeni proved futile as she did not respond to voice messages and SMSes left on her phones.

DA caucus leader Pam Passmoor said it was strange that the Provincial Treasury had swooped on the municipality and confiscated computers, when just last week the chief financial officer was organising the second financial intervention with the Treasury.

“The question needs to be asked whether it was necessary to confiscate computers when the Treasury intervention team was due to start work on the finances of the municipality at the beginning of February,” she said.

“Where have these computers been taken and is the Treasury authorised to seize municipal assets?” Passmoor asked.

Hawks spokesperson McIntosh Polela declined to confirm or deny the Hawks’ involvement, saying the unit did not talk about investigations.

Meanwhile, the final report of a commission of inquiry into fraud and corruption at uMngeni is due to be out any day now.

Secretary of the commission, attorney Dumisani Xaba, said yesterday that commission chair Vuzi Khuzwayo had indicated that the report would be ready by early this year. Xaba said he expects the report to be out before the end of February.

He said that since the commission was established by Premier Zweli Mkhize, the report with its recommendations would first be given to the premier.

uMngeni has been under the spotlight for the past six years for actions such as illegally purchasing a R1,7million house for its former mayor and then for paying a “millionaire” salary to former municipal manager Dumisani Vilakazi.

Former MEC for Local Government Mike Mabuyakhulu ordered a forensic investigation into the municipality. The investigation, carried out by a Pretoria-based company called Ubuntu, recommended both disciplinary action and a criminal inquiry against senior managers, including Vilakazi and current chief financial officer Bertus van der Merwe.

But the council did not accept the outcome of the investigation and instituted its own probe by a company called Dobeyn. This probe cleared the managers of wrongdoing.

Faced with two reports and no resolution on allegations about money wastefully spent, the provincial government initiated a commission of inquiry, which sat on and off for about a year from July 2010 to September 2011.

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