De Lille tried to 'influence and persuade' City manager to not report 'serious misconduct' allegations - report

2018-10-22 20:12
Executive Mayor of Cape Town Patricia de Lille. (Ashley Vlotman, Gallo Images, file)

Executive Mayor of Cape Town Patricia de Lille. (Ashley Vlotman, Gallo Images, file)

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City of Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille tried to "influence and persuade" former City manager Achmat Ebrahim to not report allegations of "serious misconduct" to the City council, a new report found.

The 2 000-page report, compiled by law firm Bowmans, recommended that disciplinary action be taken against De Lille, mayoral committee member for transport Brett Herron and suspended transport and urban development authority commissioner Melissa Whitehead, EWN and Timeslive reported.

A copy of the confidential report was sent to councillors on Saturday.

It is set to be tabled in the council on Thursday.

A section of the report, seen by News24, found that De Lille repeatedly said allegations of "irregular spending" of up to R40m in the MyCiTi Volvo contract and the Foreshore freeway development programme were "going nowhere".

De Lille believed that a previous report into Whitehead's partiality on the Foreshore freeway bid committee only raised "concerns". No complaint of misconduct was laid and it was therefore not necessary to report it to council, the report found. 

De Lille also believed that Whitehead's involvement in the controversial Volvo tender did not need to be reported to council because the decision to accept incomplete buses was made to ensure that the City's capital budget was spent.

The fully completed buses were later supplied to the City when industrial action at Volvo, which caused a delay, cleared, she said.

"If so, it may, strictly speaking, have been 'irregular' in that it was not permitted by the contract. But it was nor immoral, corrupt, criminal or mala fide. The City suffered no loss and received value for money," De Lille told Bowmans.

She expressed a concern that if all allegations of misconduct were referred to the council, City employees could use it as a political tool to influence their managers.

De Lille reiterated that she never barred Ebrahim from referring the matters to the council.  

Ebrahim told Bowmans that he believed that the report on the allegations of misconduct against Whitehead should be approved by De Lille before it was sent to council.

"If a report is not signed and tabled by the executive mayor, it does not go to council," Ebrahim was quoted saying to Bowmans.

He said he previously sent documents to the council out of his own, but this changed when De Lille was mayor.

This, despite the City's own disciplinary regulations requiring the City manager to report all allegations of misconduct to the City council to consider and investigate.

In two separate emails quoted in the report, Ebrahim was, however, seen to be alerted by his own senior managers to his obligation to report the allegations to council.

Ebrahim tendered his resignation on January 10.

Bowmans cleared De Lille from allegations that she barred Ebrahim from ever referring the allegations to the council.

The law firm, however, found that the City's disciplinary regulations did not allow a preliminary vetting process and De Lille could therefore not decide to withhold allegations of misconduct from the council.

"Moreover, the power to determine whether an allegation of misconduct is serious or less serious misconduct or whether there is no evidence to support the allegation of misconduct (and thus to dismiss the matter) lies with the municipal council only and not with the executive mayor or the City manager," the report reads.

De Lille told News24 that she would release a statement once she studied the report and consulted her lawyers.

The City of Cape Town said it was premature to comment on the report because it has not yet been tabled in the council.

City of Cape Town speaker Dirk Smit said he could not discuss the content of the "confidential report".

News24 understands that councillors each received a password-encrypted copy of the report on a USB device, making it impossible for them to distribute copies of the report.

This is the second report by Bowmans into irregularities at the City of Cape Town.

The first report, released in December, found severe infighting and mistrust among the City of Cape Town's top tier of officials.

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