'Bullying' De Lille wanted alleged tender irregularity report to 'go away' - executive director

2017-11-22 12:34
Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille (Gallo Images)

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille (Gallo Images)

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Cape Town – Mayor Patricia de Lille planned to publicly discredit a senior City of Cape Town staffer who questioned alleged tender irregularities, and she asked that a report into a possible R43m loss regarding another tender be made to "go away", her executive director has alleged in an explosive affidavit.

Craig Kesson, the executive director in the mayor's office, has made several shocking allegations against De Lille in the affidavit, which has surfaced as major turmoil and infighting within the City of Cape Town comes to light.

Included in the allegations he has made are that De Lille believed a group of officials were conspiring against her and that she was "politically under attack from various quarters" who were trying to have her removed.

Kesson has also said that De Lille threatened to investigate the portfolio manager of probity, Lindiwe Ndaba, which he believed amounted to "bullying, harassment and victimisation".

Ndaba, according to his affidavit, had to take leave due to "severe stress" relating to undue interference with the independence of Probity Services.

According to Kesson, De Lille believed Ndaba had investigated City Manager Achmat Ebrahim without authorisation from council.

'She has failed to quash misconduct'

"In my respectful view, the Mayor's conduct… is not compatible with her legal and ethical obligations," Kesson said in his affidavit.

"She has failed to ensure that due process is followed in respect of alleged misconduct and irregularities brought to her attention."

De Lille said she had not yet been given an opportunity to respond to all Kesson’s allegations in the 42-page affidavit which was tabled during a confidential special council meeting on Tuesday.

The affidavit is dated November 9.

De Lille to respond by end of week

De Lille said that, once her lawyers had concluded her response to the affidavit, she would make it available.

She was expected to make it available by the end of the week.

On Tuesday, the council unanimously resolved that the City's audit and performance audit committee be instructed to appoint an independent investigator to probe allegations against Kesson, Ebrahim and Melissa Whitehead, the commissioner of the transport and urban development authority.

The trio was given a seven-day notice to provide written representations to council as to why they should not be placed on precautionary suspension.

READ: 3 top City of Cape Town officials face suspension over corruption allegations

Kesson's affidavit forms part of this overall matter.

In it he said that he was appointed executive director of the directorate of the mayor, as well as chief resilience officer, on January 1, 2017.

Kesson explained that, along with De Lille and Ebrahim, he was responsible for clean corporate governance within the city.

'R43m loss'

He said that, since June 2017, he had become increasingly concerned about De Lille's attitude and conduct relating to allegations against Whitehead.

On June 3, Kesson had attended a forensics presentation on the MyCiti Bus Stations Tender contract involving two companies.

"I notified the Mayor in a confidential memorandum dated 6 July 2017 that the presentation disclosed a multi-million rand loss to the City via the fare system of the MyCiti Bus Service," he said in his affidavit.

The firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers had estimated that this loss could equal around R43m.

Legal advice was sought from commercial law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr and, in a preliminary opinion on August 29, they recommended that Whitehead and Ebrahim's conduct be investigated.

'Make it go away'

"When I tried to present the attorneys' opinion to the Mayor in a meeting between the two of us on 31 August 2017… the Mayor did not wish to receive it and said that we needed to make the issue 'go away' and that the matter should not reach Council," Kesson's affidavit said.

"This naturally surprised and concerned me."

He said De Lille had a similar attitude during a meeting on September 5, 2017, when it came to allegations relating to the bid evaluation process for another tender, the Freeway Foreshore, which relates to the development of locations including unfinished highways.

Concern over conduct

Independent consultants Moore Stephens, who advised the City on tender issues, criticised Whitehead's conduct.

The Moore Stephens consultants, according to Kesson's affidavit, also said Whitehead had stated during a meeting that a particular bid should be rejected because transport and urban development mayoral committee member Brett Herron, as well as "the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor said they will never accept the… proposal".

Kesson said that, on September 6, he had told De Lille he was worried about the concerns expressed over Whitehead's role in the losses relating to the MyCiti matter.

"The Mayor alleged that the Commissioner was being unfairly singled out and that allegations that had been made in historic Forensics' reports against other (executive directors), had not been submitted to the Council," Kesson said.

'Startling claim by De Lille unfounded'

He found this "startling, if true", so decided to review the previous five years of forensics reports. There were 1 100 of them.

"In the course of this review, I found no support for the Mayor's allegation that the Commissioner was being singled out unfairly," Kesson’s affidavit said.

Ebrahim has in turn claimed that Kesson gave an instruction that five years' worth of forensic reports be seized so that he could send them to unauthorised people and use the reports to investigate Ebrahim and other senior managers, which Ebrahim said was unlawful.

READ: De Lille's executive director accessed 'confidential forensic reports' - City manager

On August 31, Kesson became aware that the Foreshore Freeway tender process had stalled.

Kesson's affidavit said documents submitted by Moore Stephens mentioned De Lille's "name in the events which resulted in the stalling of the tender".

De Lille had later told Kesson that the stalling was due to irregular actions of two members of the technical bid evaluation committee.

De Lille 'orders director's firing'

On September 5, Kesson found out that one of Whitehead's directors, Frank Cummings, who served on the bid evaluation committee, had lodged a grievance against her.

"The Mayor was made to understand that there was a possibility of Mr Cummings making his grievance public," Kesson's affidavit said.

Cummings' grievance supported what Moore Stephens concluded – that Whitehead allegedly preferred a particular bidder from early in the process.

"The Mayor ultimately gave an instruction that Mr Cummings' employment be terminated," Kesson's affidavit said.

Public political discrediting discussed

On September 5, De Lille, Kesson and Herron were among officials who discussed the Foreshore tender matter.

"When the matter of Mr Cummings’ grievance arose, the Mayor stated that she would give a press conference and discredit him politically that same day. Mr Cummings has since left the City's employment," Kesson’s affidavit said.

During a meeting the next day, Kesson had advised that Ebrahim and Whitehead should be allowed to respond to allegations against them only once the council had moved to process any allegation and authorise a probe into them if this action was agreed on.

De Lille, Kesson's affidavit said, had disagreed.

Kesson said that, when he started expressing his views about the Foreshore Freeway tender issues, he was "threatened" by Herron that his probity responsibility would be removed.

On September 12, Ebrahim – who Kesson said was acting with De Lille's approval – attempted to remove probity functions from him.

Conspiracy theory

Kesson said Ebrahim had told the mayor that an official, David Marais, was suing Whitehead in her private capacity.

"The Mayor then alleged that there was a conspiracy of trying to block (Whitehead) as a proxy of the Mayor," Kesson's affidavit said.

He said De Lille had named Cummings, Marais and the deputy mayor as among those who were part of this conspiracy.

At this same meeting, Kesson said, De Lille had also instructed Ebrahim to terminate Cummings' and Marais' contracts with immediate effect.

On November 7, according to Kesson's affidavit, he had another meeting with De Lille.

'Under political attack'

"During this meeting she declaimed at great length that she is politically under attack from various quarters," it said.

"She claimed that there was an agenda to stop the spatial transformation of the City and to remove her, Brett Herron and Melissa Whitehead."

Kesson's affidavit said that De Lille told him she intended proposing, during a council meeting, that he should be investigated, along with Ebrahim and Whitehead.

"Alarmingly, she said that she would recommend that we all be placed on special leave while we are all investigated," he said.

Kesson said the "facts set out" in his affidavit had the risk of bringing the City into disrepute and expose it to financial risk.

He said he had an "evidence pack" in support of what was detailed in his affidavit.

Read more on:    city of cape town  |  patricia de lille  |  cape town  |  corruption  |  local government

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