uMngeni boss Vilakazi suspended

2009-11-02 00:00

CONTROVERSIAL uMngeni municipal manager Dumisani Vilakazi has been suspended from his job, this time by a full council sitting.

An extraordinary council meeting on Friday resolved not only to suspend Vilakazi, but to ask KZN Premier Zweli Mkhize to appoint a commission of inquiry into the affairs of the municipality.

The latest development points to a massive clean-up at the municipality. In just the past week, Mayor Edward Dladla was instructed by the province’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) to vacate the R1,7 million house bought for him by the council and to repay rates and services costs.

And Speaker Surya Kumari Pillay, who was convicted of fraud over misrepresentations to acquire an RDP house, quit her position to become an ordinary councillor.

Vilakazi was not at work on Friday and it is believed he is on sick leave having undergone a minor surgical procedure.

Besides his woes with the municipality he is facing a drunken driving charge and seven related charges following an accident on the N3 near Mooi River in August last year. This was the second time he has been arrested on charges of drunk driving. He was arrested in 2003, but later acquitted.

The municipal manager is no stranger to suspensions. He suspended himself less than a year ago. This was when the council did not accept the recommendations of a forensic investigation by former MEC for Local Government, Mike Mabuyakhulu, which fingered senior officials within the municipality.

The uMngeni council dismissed the MEC’s inquiry on technical grounds, saying the investigators did not have the authority to subpoena information. The council opted to hold its own internal investigation, appointing the services of Dobbeyn Administration.

It was at this point that Vilakazi generously offered to suspend himself so the internal investigation could proceed unhampered. The investigation was to have been completed by the end

of August. To date the report has not been tabled before council.

Shenanigans at uMngeni Municipality first surfaced three years ago, when the municipality took the extraordinary step of buying a house for the mayor.

The forensic investigation called for by Mabuyakhulu discovered that there was a close relationship between the seller of the house and the municipality. Not only did a company owned by the seller’s brother receive lucrative tenders from the municipality, but the house was bought for much more that it was valued.

A week after signing the agreement to purchase the house, Vilakazi was spotted with the seller, Jonathan du Toit, at a rugby Test match in Twickenham, England, in November 2006.

The forensic investigation also found that Vilakazi apparently inflated the renumeration packages of senior managers by increasing their travel allowances, resulting in over-payment of R1,4 million in July 2007.

No taxes were withheld from performance bonuses of senior managers and at one time Vilakazi allegedly received over R34 000 more on his performance bonus than he was supposed to get.

More recently uMngeni hit the news when the senior managers received major pay hikes, giving Vilakazi a salary package of over R1,3 million, just a few thousand rand short of an MEC’s salary.

After an outcry from the public, the council recommended in July that the salaries of senior managers be slashed. However, by September it was revealed in The Witness that Vilakazi and his eight senior managers had defied the council’s order and continued to draw salaries ranging from R900 000 to R1,3million.

Chief financial officer Bertus van der Merwe explained at the time that a provincial task team was reviewing municipal management salaries and until it is completed, the status quo will remain.

IFP councillor Luke Mthembu said yesterday that while he welcomes Vilakazi’s suspension, he believes other senior managers fingered alongside Vilakazi on allegations of maladministration should also face suspension.

The DA’s Pam Passmoor said the full commission of inquiry requested by the council will lift the lid on all the municipality’s activities.

It will go further than the forensic investigation initiated by the MEC conducted two years ago, which was quashed by the municipality. Passmoor said a full inquiry will bring the amounts owing by those implicated and related charges up to date.

The mayor could not be reached for comment.

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