Row over interests

2010-08-11 00:00

TWO Msunduzi politicians have flouted municipal legislation by failing to declare their business interests on time.

In April, The Witness reported that 41 Msunduzi councillors had failed to declare their interests, resulting in an audit query in the Auditor-General’s (A-G) report.

At a full council meeting at the time, council speaker Babu Baijoo threatened to reveal the identities of those councillors at the next full council sitting if they had failed to declare their interests, but no one was exposed at the next meeting.

The Witness can today reveal that of those 41 councillors, ward councillor Thobani Zuma and former executive committee councillor Themba Zungu (who was ousted in March) are the only ones who failed to declare their business interests for the previous municipal financial year, which ended on June 30.

When The Witness phoned Zuma for comment, he said he did declare his interests, but was unable to give further comment as he was rushing to a meeting that was likely to finish at about 10 pm.

Zungu said he had declared his interests, but could not recall when he did so.

He said former municipal manager Rob Haswell issued warnings to more than 30 councillors who had failed to make declarations and although he was one of them at the time, he eventually complied.

“The person I declared to went and spoke lies and it’s been proven. He went to parliament and lied to them and it’s the same thing with the declaration of councillors. Did Rob Haswell declare? That’s what you must ask,” he said.

Zungu said politicians are being picked on and officials who have business interests should also be made to declare them.

Asked about his business interests, Zungu mentioned security, property, farming, building of pavements and tools.

“Even if I come back next year I’ll declare. Even if I don’t come back next year I’ll declare. I don’t have a problem,” he said.

Speaking to The Witness yesterday, Haswell said all the relevant records are kept in his former office at the city hall.

“I can’t recall off the top of my head if he did declare, but all the information was forwarded to the A-G,” he said.

Baijoo said that when he accepted his position, Zungu was no longer a councillor, but he will consult the municipality’s legal division to see whether he is now exempt.

However, Baijoo said Zuma will still have to declare his interests.

“Some declarations were done, but they were not done correctly. For example, three years ago the A-G picked on mine because it was not signed by a commissioner of oaths. A lot of declarations were invalid because of technical glit­ches,” he said.

Baijoo said the current declaration form is “not worth the paper it’s written on” because it was not designed to enable councillors to declare everything that is required of them. However, he added, the legal division is working on rectifying the form.

He said that in terms of legislation, councillors have to declare their interests every financial year because of changes in their status. All that is required is for them to fill in a form, which is then signed by a commissioner of oaths, said Baijoo.

Councillors without business interests have to fill in a “nil declaration” form, which a lot of councillors do not realise, and officials also have to declare their interests to the municipal manager.

“If you don’t declare, you will have a code of conduct to answer to. This financial year we will take it more seriously,” Baijoo said.

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