uMngeni fuel fraud probe

2008-11-30 00:00

Allegations of petrol card abuse and possible fraud have emerged within the uMngeni Municipality following a massive 43% reduction in the monthly fuel bill in just one month. During this time, all municipal vehicles were being fully utilised.

DA councillor Pam Passmoor said she discovered savings of about R100 000 when she compared the August and September fleet management reports. Her suspicions were aroused when even the refuse removal trucks, with no change of routine, reduced their fuel consumption by 50%.

“I was at a loss, for example, to imagine how a honey sucker responsible for emptying septic tanks, with a 60% reduction in fuel consumption, could have been used for other than legitimate service.”

Passmoor said her suspicions were confirmed during a recent management cluster committee meeting.

She reported the fleet controller, saying that the municipality was aware of suspected fraudulent activities and had revoked garage cards from the staff.

The controller stressed that it was a petrol outlet and not the staff who were suspected of being involved in these illegal activities.

The committee resolved that the municipal management must thoroughly investigate the matter in terms of the municipality’s accepted anti-fraud and internal audit policies, and that a full report be made to council as a matter of urgency.

When contacted, municipal manager, Dumisani Vilakazi confirmed that this process is under way.

He could not expand on the details as he was in a meeting. The Witness tried to reach him later, but was unsuccessful.

Passmoor said she was disappointed at the lack of transparency as management chose not to bring these suspected fraudulent activities to the attention of the portfolio committee without it being pointed out to them first. Although the amount involved could be well over R1 million per year, the police have also not been called in, she said.

She added that this was not the first time that abuse of the municipality’s garage cards has come up.

“In October 2005, council was presented with a report to illustrate the workings of the Geodata system. This system was able to tell the routes, speed and kilometres travelled by municipal vehicles, as well as where, when and how much fuel was bought. What the management failed to notice was that there were many cases where 80 litres of fuel fitted into a 50-litre tank.”

It is not known whether petrol card abuse was one of the areas investigated in the forensic probe commissioned by Local Government MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu into the uMngeni Municipality. More than 120 days have passed since the forensic report was delivered to the municipality and it is yet to be tabled before full council.

Municipalities are given 21 days to table such reports and decide on appropriate action. Speaker in the uMngeni council, Suraya Pillay, asked the MEC for an extension, saying she needed to get legal advice on the matter.

The lengthy extension is fuelling speculation that the report must contain damning evidence.

There have also been allegations that while councillors have not had sight of the report, officials fingered in the probe are allegedly privy to its contents and that the delay is to enable them to prepare their defence.

Passmoor said that as caucus leader of her party, she has written to the head of the Local Government Department calling for the urgent tabling of the report and for the MEC to intervene.

“Our motivation for this request was that the Speaker is not in control of the situation and we doubt whether she ever has been.”

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