Mayor’s ‘fruitless’ splurge

2015-07-13 10:14

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Pietermaritzburg - Greytown mayor Thami Ngubane has been lambasted by opposition parties for using taxpayers’ money to fund his personal accommodation, transport and security.

This comes after it was found that Greytown’s Umvoti Municipality funded about R350 000 for the mayor’s accommodation, bodyguards and car hire between the period of February and April this year.

Questions have now been raised as to how much more money was spent from April to now.

The Witness has been leaked invoices sent to the Umvoti Municipality during the three months period from a Greytown bed and breakfast (B&B) and a Richards Bay-based security firm, for services rendered to the mayor. The invoices were signed off at the municipality at the end of each month.

According to the invoices, Ngubane, who is also the provincial leader of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL), was booked into the Greytown Lodge, an upmarket bed-and-breakfast facility, for 21 days in February.

Along with the mayor, two of his bodyguards were also given a room each.

At a rate of R400 per person per night, the bill that was issued to the Umvoti Municipality cost them R8 400 for the mayor and R16 000 for his guards, who stayed at the premises for 20 days that month alone.

In March, the three rooms cost the municipality R31 200 for a 26-day stay and in April, the bill showed R25 200 for 21 days at the B&B.

The grand total for the mayor’s stay, along with his two bodyguards, was R80 800 for the period of February to April.

Along with the hefty accommodation invoices from the B&B, the municipality raked in bills exceeding R250 000 from Kenyon Security Services, a Richards Bay security company tasked with providing protection for Ngubane.

According to the invoices, R35 000 was paid for the hiring of a vehicle from February 19 to 28; R49 000 for car hire between March 1 to 14; and a staggering R185 000 for mayoral protection consisting of guns, petrol and bodyguards for April alone.

The total expenditure for both the accommodation and protection services was R349 800 for February through to April. It is unclear how much has been spent to date.

According to a manager at Kenyon Security Services, to date, four bodyguards are currently safeguarding the mayor, three of whom accompany him and one who remains at his home.

The manager was unable to disclose the cost for this service.

In attempting to justify the spending, a representative from the office of the speaker at the Umvoti Municipality said accommodation had to be found as the mayoral house was being renovated. renovations are being conducted at the Mayoral house in Greytown.

The municipality also said the security service bill was necessary as a precautionary measure after political unrest in the area.

According to the municipality, the mayoral house was occupied by municipal staff members who were relocated, after which it was established that the house, along with other staff houses, needed renovating.

“The mayor was requested to wait … while the house was made fit for occupation, which compelled him to find alternative accommodation,” the municipality said.

The municipality added that the guards were given rooms at the B&B in case of an emergency.

“Umvoti Municipality is just coming out of Section 139 intervention after political unrest,” the municipality said.

A Section 139 intervention, according to the Constitution, is when the national or provincial executive may intervene if a municipality cannot or does not fulfil executive obligations.

The municipal official said a vehicle was required by the mayor to overcome “rough terrain” in the rural areas of the municipality.

“ … Unfortunately Umvoti Municipality did not have a vehicle that could service the mayor and therefore a vehicle had to be hired that could also accommodate for his safety and security,” the official said.

“It was then established that it would be more feasible to purchase a vehicle for the mayoral office that will be utilised by other elected mayors over the years to come.”

According to sources in council, the vehicle purchased was an R850 000 Jeep.

The municipal official said because the mayor came into office at a time when the region was struggling to come out of political unrest, he was entitled to personal security.

EFF 'not happy'

Regional Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Dumisani Shelembe said the party is “not happy” that the Umvoti Municipality has spent so much.

“Why does he not stay at other municipal-owned properties and what does he need so much security for?” asked Shelembe.

“Then there is the issue of car hire. Can he [Ngubane] not afford his own car? I paid for my own car and I am not a mayor. This is tax money and there must be an inquisition into the matter. We are calling for the mayor to be suspended until an investigation is complete,” Shelembe said.

Hitler Maharaj of the Greytown Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) called the costs “wasteful and fruitless”.

“Was there a risk analysis done for him to qualify for so much security? The usual procedure is to have a risk analysis done by the police national intervention unit,” he said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  government spending  |  local government

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