ANC KZN councillor disciplined for bid to stop graft

Durban - A Harry Gwala district municipality councillor has incurred the wrath of his party by trying to prevent what he describes as wide-scale “looting of public funds”.

Instead of supporting Mandla Ngcobo's efforts, the ANC disciplined him for sowing division within the party, prompting his resignation as speaker of the southern KwaZulu-Natal municipality at a council meeting in March.

Now Ngcobo has written to President Jacob Zuma, pleading for him to intervene in the matter.

In the letter, he mentions cost inflated tenders for security services, where there was an excess payment of R12m, taking the total cost to R22m. Additionally, a training contract cost R2.5m - and the cost of a consultancy to investigate these tenders: R10m.

Ngcobo, who declined to speak to News24, says in the letter that he raised his concerns before the council and tried to get a high court order preventing further payment of the R22m tender to provide security to the municipal offices within the district, which almost doubled without reason.

The letter, a copy of which was leaked to News24, details alleged financial wrongdoing in the district administration.

Special investigation

Ngcobo wants Zuma to instruct the Special Investigating Unit to look into the matter.

“I hereby request and appeal to your esteemed office to intervene in stopping the looting of public funds in our municipality and its municipal entity, Sisonke Development Agency.

“I trust that our government is sincerely committed to fighting and eradicating corruption and maladministration in all government departments and municipalities… The Special Investigating Units and Tribunals Act 74 of 1996 empowers your office to proclaim investigations. The following information accompanied by documents is volunteered for that purpose,” Ngcobo writes.

He cites what he alleges are a number of cases of irregular expenditure.

“In the 2010/2011 financial year, R2.5m was advanced to a service provider in breach of the Municipal Finance Management Act. The official who entered into this loan agreement had no authority from the council.

“In the 2011/2012 financial year a tender was awarded to a non-responsive service provider. The bid adjudication committee disregarded essential requirements in the bid document [and awarded the tender to a company which did not fulfil all the required criteria].

“There have been overpayments and fluctuation of monthly costs [to the security company] and an excess of payment of over R12m,” Ngcobo said.

Inflated contract

He had reported the matter to National Treasury. In its response, which is included in the letter, it confirms the price of the contract was inflated by 158%.

Ngcobo further cites a financial probe into the municipality by a consultancy which cost taxpayers R10m and found a slew of questionable payments to service providers.

“The instances should have been attended to by both management and council. This has not happened because people fear for their careers, deployment and their lives.

"I have personally made sure that the executive committee knows about this and they have the documents. The chair of the Municipal Public Accounts Committee has been informed and as a member of the council I can tell with certainty that we are ineffective as an oversight structure.

‘Protecting corruption’

“The National Treasury has provided a lot of information pointing out a number of wrong things. Currently there is a great effort to keep the report under wraps.

“Some people want to perpetuate ignorance, thereby protecting corruption,” Ngcobo wrote.

“Your action with go a long way to improving the image of the government and restoring public confidence.

“I hope my letter will be regarded as a civic duty and an act of patriotism to the country,” he wrote to Zuma.

Both the Presidency and municipality were contacted on Tuesday morning for a response, but neither had responded by Wednesday morning.

Taking action

Early last year, when Ngcobo’s suspicions were aroused, he raised the issue with the Harry Gwala executive committee and referred it to the Municipal Public Accounts Committee.

In March, he wrote a letter to the municipal manager, trying to place the matter on the agenda, but the letter went unanswered.

He detailed his concerns again in July, sending an affidavit to the MECs for finance, co-operative governance, National Treasury, the Auditor General and the co-operative governance minister.

In the same month, he approached the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg to secure an urgent interdict against the payments, but the matter was dismissed on the basis that it was not urgent.

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