Municipal employee accused of alleged fraud

2017-10-25 06:00
PHOTO: Makhosandile zuluThe John Mabulala Community Hall in KwaMachibisa, Ward 22.

PHOTO: Makhosandile zuluThe John Mabulala Community Hall in KwaMachibisa, Ward 22.

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A MSUNDUZI Municipality employee is accused of allegedly leasing the John Mabulala Community Hall out in KwaMachibisa (Ward 22) as a residence.

The accused, a ward committee member, allegedly rented out the hall in 2011 for four months to migrant workers, who were working on a mall in the area.

Their company allegedly paid for their accommodation, which went into the personal bank account of the accused.

A member of the community lodged a complaint with the Public Protector PMB regional office regarding the matter.

According to an email from the PP’s office to the complainant, the allegation levelled against the accused was referred to the Msunduzi municipal manager.

“The municipality then contracted a service provider to conduct a forensic investigation into the matter. The investigation found that at the time of the unlawful lease, the John Mabulala Community Hall was under the ownership and control of the Umgungundlovu District Municipality,” the email reads.

The PP’s response says the forensic investigation conducted by the municipality found the accused had unduly benefited from payments made into her personal bank account.

The PP told the complainant the investigator recommended that the Msunduzi Municipality should refer the matter to the Umgungundlovu District Municipality for further action as the hall was under their ownership and control at the time and that the matter should be reported to the SAPS for investigation.

“The Msunduzi Municipality Exco resolved at its meeting on May 18 to forward the matter to the Umgungundlovu District Municipality as recommended­ by the auditors,” the email reads.

Umgungundlovu District Municipality spokesperson, Mbali Ndlovu referred Echo’s media inquiry to Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson, Thobeka Mafumbatha, stating that the hall falls under Msunduzi’s jurisdiction.

Mafumbatha said she is investigating the matter with the relevant department, saying she cannot comment because the person in charge of the unit that handles community halls is on sick leave.

Meanwhile, according to the PP email to the community member complainant, the district municipality’s audit committee resolved that the Msunduzi Municipality should be the one to take action.

“The report was to be tabled before the municipality’s Exco and council for consideration. We have requested the acting municipal manager [Sizwe Hadebe] to advise whether the report has been tabled before Exco and council and whether the conduct of the affected employee has been reported to the SAPS as per audit committee resolution,” the PP’s email stated.

The accused said the decision to have the hall leased had been made by the previous Ward 22 councillor, Patrick Jaca, adding she had no access to the community hall and the keys to the hall were kept in the councillor’s office, which she had no access to either.

The accused said sources levelling allegations of corruption against current ward committee members are doing this to tarnish the latter’s reputations and are bitter individuals aligned with the previous ward councillor who was ousted by incumbent, Xolani Ngongoma.

Ngongoma said the accused had been instructed by the then councillor to sign the agreement between the worker’s company and representatives of the ward to lease the hall to the former.

He said another request, made by the then councillor, was that the accused use her personal bank account to receive the rent payments from the company.

“The councillor said the payments would be equal to fund-raising for the community. The councillor at the time had asked the accused to sign the agreement because he said he could do so because he was employed by the municipality and the hall belongs to the municipality,” he said.

Ngongoma said media reports about alleged corruption by the ward committee members is a way of discrediting these individuals.

“It is just a way of dragging the names of the current leadership down because they want the community to no longer have faith in them.

“If the previous councillor had not been part of the whole thing - to lease out the hall - then why had he not put a stop to it by immediately reporting it to the municipality,” Ngongoma said.

Jaca said those behind the leasing of the hall had sought to frame him so they could besmirch his reputation as a community leader.

“When I found out that the hall was being rented out to workers I then called the ward committee to find out if they knew anything about this.

“One of them [the accused] admitted to being behind the whole thing and apologised to me for pocketing the rent payments before asking me to intervene and bring this to an end because she was afraid it might land her in jail,” Jaca said.

He said once this matter has been put to bed he would be absolved of any involvement.

He said an investigator looking into the matter had allegedly told him that the accused had admitted her guilt for renting out the hall and the investigator had shown him proof of money being paid into the accused’s bank account by the workers’ company.

Jaca said there is no concrete evidence that proves his involvement in the alleged unlawful leasing of the hall.

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