Perumal: ‘Hidden agendas’ suggested

2011-12-13 00:00

SUGGESTIONS that “hidden agendas” may be behind the criminal fraud charges against senior Msunduzi manager Kevin Perumal were raised in the regional court in Pietermaritzburg yesterday.

Perumal is on trial for fraud totalling R30 069 arising from allegations that he abused Msunduzi Municipality’s subsistence and travel allowance scheme on various occasions between 2003 and 2006.

The suggestion that others might have wanted to “get rid” of Perumal for political or other motives was made by defence advocate Christo van Schalkwyk SC during his cross-examination of the investigating officer in the matter, Alan Nixon, yesterday.

Perumal pleaded not guilty to a total of 20 charges before regional court Chris van Vuuren.

The case resumed yesterday after a postponement of several months following Perumal’s decision to brief a new advocate (Van Schalkwyk) to represent him. The trial was delayed last week when Perumal fell ill with suspected angina and was hospitalised.

Van Schalkwyk suggested to Nixon yesterday that no disciplinary action had been taken against anyone in the Msunduzi Municipality other than Perumal following various investigations undertaken into alleged irregularities, and that no one else was charged criminally.

Nixon disputed that, saying that former Msunduzi Speaker Alpha Shelembe and councillor Themba Zungu are among accused facing bribery and corruption charges and their trial is scheduled for next year.

Nixon was asked whether he had ever considered the possiblity that others had motives to falsely implicate or target Perumal.

“It is possible that there may be people with hidden agendas against the accused … but I believe the facts in this case speak for themselves,” Nixon replied.

Nixon testified that the state is the complainant in the case and not any specific person at Msunduzi Municipality.

It emerged from the cross-examination that Perumal alleges there was “nothing wrong” with the fact that he had lodged claims both for his salary (from Msunduzi) and travel to and from Umshwathi Municipality during 2006 where he had presided over disciplinary inquiries in his private capacity as a consultant. He was paid for his services by Umshwathi.

Van Schalkwyk suggested to Nixon that executive managers at Msunduzi were entitled to 12 days’ “special leave” per annum fully paid in lieu of overtime during which they were entitled to “do as they please”.

Nixon conceded that if the court was to accept that Perumal was on special leave on the days in question there was no evidence he was not allowed to accept private work.

However, he could not then claim for travel to and from Msunduzi on those occasions.

Van Schalkwyk suggested in response that “rightly or wrongly” Perumal had an arrangement with then municipal manager, Thobani Zulu, in terms of which he was entitled to claim for his travel (to Umshwathi) if he returned to his office, for example, after the inquiry at Umshwathi municipality had not proceeded or finished early.

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