‘Ploys to foil Msunduzi audit unit’

2016-04-15 11:45

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Pietermaritzburg - The suspended head of Msunduzi’s Internal Audit Unit, Petrus Mahlaba, alleges his suspension is an attempt by acting municipal manager Boniwe Zulu to “remove a municipal official personally involved in the investigation of her conduct”.

Mahlaba has filed papers with the Labour Court in Durban, asking for an urgent order declaring his suspension unlawful and setting it aside. The case is due to be heard on April 19.

Msunduzi Municipality, Zulu and chartered accountants Morar Incorporated, who are cited in the papers, are requested to give notice if they intend opposing the order by today, April 15.

In his affidavit, Mahlaba describes Zulu’s move to suspend him as a “ploy” and “pure political gamesmanship”.

He also suggests there may be a link between his suspension and an illegal raid by police on his and other municipal offices on March 18, during which “highly sensitive and confidential” information on computers and documents about ongoing investigations was seized.

On Monday this week the high court granted an order by consent for the return of all the items removed.

In his affidavit, Mahlaba said it is a matter of public record that Zulu is the subject of an investigation by his department, as well as the fact that his unit had also investigated Dr Ray Ngcobo, who was charged with misconduct and whose disciplinary proceedings have been continuing for more than a year.

“I am yet to testify in those proceedings [against Dr Ngcobo],” he said, adding that further investigations are currently being undertaken against both Zulu and Ngcobo, which have yet to be finalised.

Mahlaba said it was ironic that he — with Zulu’s agreement — had deposed to the main affidavit in the case asking police to return the computers and documents seized in the March 18 raid, when she had no doubt already decided to suspend him.

Zulu had agreed with his views that the information on the computers and documents was “extremely sensitive and highly confidential”, involving ongoing investigations by the audit unit.

“She concurred with my view that should the information get into the wrong hands, this would seriously jeopardise and compromise my investigations,” said Mahlaba.

He said, as he had stated in that matter, he believes there are individuals who have embarked on an orchestrated plan to destabilise and frustrate the audit unit’s investigations, and who had enlisted the aid of policemen from Loop Street to achieve their objective.

Mahlaba says he knows of no fraud or corrupt activity being perpetrated by any member of the audit unit and sees no basis for the seizure of the computers and documents in question.

He believes Zulu realised that the search warrants would probably be set aside and the computers and documents returned by the police. “If I was still in office, I would be able to establish when confidential information was accessed, which confidential information was accessed, and whether it was copied. My removal had to follow as a successful application would give me control of the information to her [Zulu’s] exclusion,” he said, adding that the removal of the computers and information had given people “with sufficient interest” enough time to access the information for their own purposes.

Mahlaba said it is imperative he be reinstated to take control of the unit. “There are persons out there who have a lot to gain were confidential information regarding my investigations to be leaked to them, and who would have a lot to lose if I were to be able to finalise my investigations and to carry out my duties for which I was appointed.”

He said his suspension would affect his credibility when he is called as a witness in the disciplinary proceedings against Ngcobo, and would affect his reputation and prospects of advancement.

Mahlaba says there was no lawful reason to suspend him and that the reason given for his suspension — that he failed to co-operate with investigators from Morar Incorporated concerning the Independent Development Trust — is baseless.

Mahlaba, who was issued with a subpoena to produce various documents relating to the trust, said although he had not been able to timeously make available all the original documents requested, he had provided certified copies and a “reasonable explanation” for why the originals could not be procured immediately.

Describing attempts at serving him with his letter of suspension, Mahlaba said he left Mediclinic hospital after visiting a colleague on Friday, April 8 and noticed he was being followed by a “suspicious-looking white Toyota Fortuner with tinted windows and a GP registration number”.

“Out of concern for my safety and that of my family, I drove past my residence and the vehicle continued to follow me around Lincoln Meade suburb. The vehicle overtook me at high speed and blocked my path. A person emerged from the vehicle and introduced himself and (sic) Sherwin and displayed a municipal identity card to me. Two other unknown persons alighted from the vehicle and did not introduce themselves. They were followed by Dr Ray Ngcobo, deputy municipal manager, economic development (of Msunduzi),” he said.

Mahlaba said Ngcobo had a brown envelope in his hand and said he was asked by Zulu to deliver the document. However, Mahlaba told him he was off-duty and could not accept delivery. Ngcobo had tried unsuccessfully to force the document through the car window while Mahlaba tried to speed off.

Mahlaba said he reported the incident to Alexandra police.

His son thereafter told him that the same vehicle with Ngcobo had gone to his home and the occupants wanted to leave a document there. He instructed his son not to accept it. On being told that Ngcobo had nevertheless left the document there, he instructed his son to dispose of it outside the gate.

He was barred from entering his office at Msunduzi at the weekend and on Monday this week. During the course of the day he received a copy of his letter of suspension.

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