Perumal cleared

2013-07-26 00:00

FORMER Msunduzi human resources head Kevin Perumal, the only official prosecuted after a raid on the municipality in 2006 (when Msunduzi was placed under administration) was discharged yesterday on multiple fraud charges.

An emotional Perumal hugged his attorney, Narainsamy Naidoo, simultaneously laughing and crying, after regional court magistrate Chris van Vuuren ruled that the case against him had been “based on sand and not cement”.

The ruling ended a seven-year legal battle that is estimated to have cost Perumal close to R1 million.

Perumal was tried for submitting fraudulent subsistence and travel claims to the municipality totalling some R30 000 between October 2003 and July 2006.

He was arrested and charged in August 2007.

Among the allegations were that he claimed double for certain trips, inflated distances travelled in respect of others, and that he claimed expenses for trips he had not undertaken, as well as for private travel.

The first call Perumal made as a free man was to his wife Patty, who he said had suffered along with him and his two children, now both in their 20s.

He said the case had resulted in his wife being medically boarded from her job at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

In a brief judgment, Van Vuuren said he agreed with the state’s submissions that “on the face of it”, Perumal appeared to have committed some of the crimes.

“However, it is the foundation upon which the allegations contained in the charges are built which is cause for concern,” he said.

Van Vuuren said he was certain the investigating officer, Alan Nixon, gave of his best, but that bureaucracy got the better of the investigation.

“In carefully considering the evidence, one is left with a sense of unease as to whether or not all facts relevant to the issues have been able to be ascertained and placed before the court,” he said.

Van Vuuren said Perumal’s advocate, Christo van Schalkwyk SC, had meticulously highlighted areas where, with more investigation, a different view regarding Perumal’s discharge may have been adopted.

“The thrust of the defence case has been that a thorough investigation has not taken place and if it had, it would have thrown a different light on the matter. This view is supported by the material concessions made by some of the state witnesses,” he said.

Perumal repeated submissions made at his trial that he believes the charges were the result of a vendetta against him as well as envy. “The powers that be indicated that someone had to take the fall for what happened in the municipality, and unfortunately they chose the wrong person,” he said.

“There were a number of individuals who were envious of the senior position I occupied and tried to undermine me and not co-operate with me. There were members of staff involved in this case in fabricating evidence against me. In respect of those individuals — and they know who they are — I will be assessing my legal rights,” said Perumal.

His attorney would not comment on the possibility of future civil litigation in connection the case at this stage.

Perumal said he had achieved as much as 96% for his performance assessments while employed by the municipality. However, he was unable to find employment while the case was pending because of the charges hanging over his head.

He was cleared of all charges by a municipal disciplinary inquiry in October 2011, but his attempts to return to duty were rejected and he was effectively suspended on full pay until his contract ended in August 2012.

Perumal — who has a labour consultancy business — has an LLB degree and said he now intends to pursue his career in law.

The investigation against him emanated from the 2006 raid on the municipality, at that time under mayor Hloni Zondi and municipal manager Thabani Zulu, by the Scorpions.

The Scorpions were dissolved soon after, and the investigation into allegations of corruption and maladministration came to a halt.


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