Factions hurt council

2019-07-26 15:54

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Factional conflicts within the ANC’s regional, provincial and national structures have made a major contribution to governance lapses within Msunduzi.

Read: SPECIAL REPORT: Administrator’s turnaround strategy

This led to several irregular council decisions, including what Sithole described as the “poisonous chalice” of the appointment of the currently suspended municipal manager, Sizwe Hadebe.

Also read: Clean up central areas

Sithole said even when senior executives voiced concerns about deterioration under Hadebe, their concerns were viewed as biased because they preferred the previous City boss, Mxolisi Nkosi.

The decision by the ANC’s strong caucus to overpower their colleagues into ignoring the general managers’ open revolt against Hadebe not only derailed the council, but created a serious divide among councillors as they found themselves forced to choose sides, with disastrous consequences for governance and service delivery.

“When other senior councillors raised concerns that the municipality was regressing and changes were needed to the acting City manager position, their concerns were treated with disdain due to perceived factions that they represented as opposed to the then regional leadership,” said Sithole of another example of the consequence of ANC intra-party politics.

Sithole also highlighted the issue of collapsed meetings because quorums could not be reached “simply because issues on agenda were seen as favouring a particular faction”.

“More seriously, Msunduzi Municipality has not been immune from what has been revealed in the Moerane Commission on political killings in KwaZulu-Natal. The spate of killings and the number of councillors and officials facing death threats bear testimony to the hostile political climate that characterises Msunduzi Municipality’s operations.”

Amid the chaos and disorder at management level, Sithole said the independence of the audit committee and internal audit were systematically emasculated.

One of the ways this was done, as The Witness has previously reported, was through the lengthy suspension of the internal head, Petrus Mahlaba.

This led to the resignation of some audit committee members and the appointment of internal auditors who stopped ongoing forensic investigations and interfered with disciplinary processes.

Sithole blamed this for the regression in audit outcomes.

“The internal controls were deliberately weakened and although these structures are being revamped, it will take quite some time before their effectiveness is felt again in the organisation.”

There was also concern that internal audit and forensic investigations are heavily reliant on external consultants.

He said strengthening these structures was one of the urgent tasks of the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

Findings on probes not implemented

Numerous investigations have been conducted on wrongdoing at the City Hall but Sithole was concerned that the findings were not implemented.

He said this was due to limited capacity for initiators and presiding officers to process completed investigations largely because of intimidation.

There were also allegations of political interference that resulted in some disciplinary processes being halted without cogent reasons.

“The rot at the top especially as it pertains to allegations of fraud, maladministration and financial misconduct directed at the City manager, Mr Hadebe and other senior executives.”

He said the intervention team needed to prioritise the finalisation of outstanding investigations, especially emanating from the findings of the auditor-general and Special Investigation Unit as well as issues raised by whistleblowers or council committees.

“The hiatus in terms of governance and oversight structures, systems and processes must therefore be resolved if any credence of stability and normality can be resolved.”

To do list for Cogta’s intervention team:

  • Implement remedial actions suggested in the completed investigations;
  • Identify other areas where further investigations are needed;
  • Expedite disciplinary processes where these have been delayed deliberately;
  • Ensure that criminal cases are opened where suspected malfeasance, maladministration, fraud and corruption and financial misconduct are suspected;
  • Pursue civil litigation to recover monies where council has been financially prejudiced;
  • Cancel contracts deemed to be irregular;
  • Liaise with law enforcement agencies and the Office of the Public Protector on matters reported to them;
  • Develop fraud and corruption risk assessment and put mitigations in place including addressing institutional weaknesses for managing consequence management;
  • Review the capacity of audit committee and internal audit; and
  • Track progress on all cases on a monthly basis for reporting purpose to council, Cogta and National Treasury.

lack of political oversight

Sithole found that political oversight structures within Msunduzi have been generally weak. Some of his observations included:

  • Meetings postponed for lack of quorums;
  • The number of outstanding issues.
  • The executive committee is convened weekly but does not deal with the state of city finances in a comprehensive way;
  • Reports are merely noted even when thorough and robust considerations are warranted;
  • Voluminous reports are difficult to read in time to adequately prepare for meetings. “One is left with a distinct impression that councillors are deliberately misled and not given enough meat to chew on substantive issues affecting the city”;
  • No tracking tools for following up on decisions taken and their implementation, making it impossible to hold officials accountable;
  • The skills mix of councillors to deal with city complexities may also be a major hindrance to effective oversight.

‘Responsiveness can minimise the increase of protests’

The municipality has experienced an exceptional number of public protests and there was a spike even after the May elections.

Sithole said most protests were genuine and related to service delivery, but warned that they could cripple the city.

“On the positive, rapid response platforms have been created to respond to these issues at the level of the Speaker (Jabu Ngubo) and Deputy Mayor (Thobani Zuma). The Mayor (Themba Njilo) has also been active in quelling some of the most violent protests.”

He said officials needed to timeously respond to issues before they degenerated into unmanageable protests.

There was also a need to develop an update of all issues that had been raised in different areas and to proactively communicate progress to communities on what has been resolved or still outstanding and to present what are the next steps in resolving the issues of concern to the public.

He said that responsiveness to community issues would go a long way to minimising the increase of public protests.

“To a lesser extent some public protests have also been seen as politically inspired and allegations of sabotage especially in water reservoirs have also been raised. These types of protests must also be managed as they have the propensity to paralyse the city and affect the business community the most,” he said. Sithole said a programme of action must be developed to identify issues affecting service delivery.

Counting the costs

LOSSES

  • R3,4 billion is owed to the City
  • Water: R667 192 406 has been lost in water revenue in the last six years
  • Electricity: R1 037 856 000 lost in revenue from electricity in the last five years.

COST TO FIX

  • These are SOME of the costs to fix the City.
  • R3 million for properly working cremators
  • R238 million for critical infrastructure at primary and secondary substations, including vandalised substations
  • R383 645 600 for installation of prepaid/smart meters
  • R2,5 billion to meet the backlog for roads and storm water infrastructure
  • R1,7 billion for housing
  • R484,6 million (excl VAT) to sort out the Vulindlela Bulk Water Supply to an optimal state to meet the present and future 25-year projected demands of the system
  • R2 543 201 to employ much-needed staff for the water division
  • R2,3 million for additional fleet for water services
  • R497 656 880 for sanitation infrastructure upgrades (R640 million for Greater Edendale)
  • R4,2 billion to upgrade Darvill Waste Water works
  • R646 million to serve all areas with waterborne reticulation
  • R25 million for Safe City (over five years) to increase the coverage of CCTV cameras.  

Disciplinary process for Hadebe

Sizwe Hadebe was formally suspended as the municipal manager of Msunduzi on August 2 last year and he is still undergoing disciplinary process.

Hadebe is facing allegations of meddling in the appointments of a senior manager and supply chain processes.

The resolution was arrived at following a report tabled by the mayor containing recommendations by an independent investigator, Sithembelo Mhlanga of Mhlanga Attorneys.

The City boss was alleged to have interfered with tenders, inflated prices for contracts and increased his annual salary by R500 000 without following processes.

The voice on the damning audio clip that was leaked to the media last year was reportedly confirmed by Mhlanga’s team to be Hadebe’s.

The recording captured a senior official being allegedly instructed to manipulate interview scores in favour of Khanyisile Shoba to secure her appointment as a senior manager for asset and liabilities.

Lots of zipped lips at City Hall

“No comment”.

That was the response from City officials on Thursday when asked to comment on a damning report presented to councillors this week.

When contacted by The Witness on Wednesday, City administrator Sibusiso Sithole declined to comment, saying the report was a confidential matter.

“It was confidential and remains confidential. I’m not going to talk about it in whatever form. The purpose of that report was to make councillors aware of the work I’ve been doing. I’m not going talk about its contents,” he said.

Khanyisile Shoba, whose name appears in the report, stating that she had been appointed under suspicious conditions by former City manager Sizwe Hadebe, also declined to comment.

Shoba’s appointment came under scrutiny after a damning audio clip that was leaked in April last year captured a senior official being instructed to manipulate interview scores, allegedly by Hadebe, in Shoba’s favour to secure her appointment as a senior manager for assets and liabilities.

When contacted, Shoba refused to speak to The Witness and hung up the phone on two occasions. On the third occasion, her cell phone was answered by acting City manager Nelisiwe Ngcobo, who said they would not comment on the contents of the report.

“We’ll have to investigate how you got that report. If we comment, we’ll face disciplinary processes for responding to a report that you are not supposed to have,” said Ngcobo.

According to the report, the attendance records of Ngcobo must be analysed as there are concerns that she is hardly at work and therefore signing of documents, especially for payments, is delayed in her office.

Efforts to get hold of Hadebe, whom the report said as “City manager became a poisonous chalice for the city”, were unsuccessful on Thursday.

New cremators, cemeteries needed

Even the dead get a mention in Sithole’s report, which said that lack of burial space at Mountain Rise is posing a serious challenge.

He said the City urgently needs to acquire land for burials. “In this regard, the issue of an inflated price paid to purchase land at Lamont must be addressed with law enforcement agencies and civil recoveries must be pursued urgently.

He said Msunduzi needed to invest in new cremators, as existing facilities are old and expensive to maintain. The anticipated expenditure is around R3 million. He said managers must also address crime in cemeteries with law enforcement agencies.

NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.