Shock at City suspensions

2017-06-02 13:51
Three top officials allegedly face the axe.

Three top officials allegedly face the axe. (File)

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A fresh swathe of suspensions of top bosses has rocked City Hall.

This time the heads of Msunduzi’s chief financial officer Nelisiwe Ngcobo, general manager for Infrastructure Sabatha Nomnganga and general manager for Community Services Boniwe Zulu are on the chopping block.

According to well-placed sources in the municipality, the trio, who have been served with letters relating to their suspensions, face allegations of mismanagement and gross negligence of funds.

Sources said the announcement of the suspensions came as a “major shock” to councillors this week.

The suspensions were announced shortly after the 2017/2018 budget was approved in a full council meeting on Wednesday.

One source said they were “puzzled” that the report tabled at the full council only highlighted recommendations from acting city manager Sizwe Hadebe and did not reveal what investigation it was based on. “It puzzles us that this report recommending the suspensions did not come from the internal audit committee but rather was signed off by acting city manager Sizwe Hadebe,” said the source.

According to multiple sources, Nomnganga was suspended with immediate effect, but when The Witness contacted him, he said he had no knowledge of the suspension.

He said he was currently on study leave and had not received any correspondence from the office of the mayor or the acting city manager. “This is a complete shock to me. I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong. I have not been made aware of any charges or allegations yet,” Nomnganga said.

It is believed Ngcobo and Zulu were given seven days to formally respond to their notices of suspension.

In a text message to the reporter, Ngcobo said she was also on study leave and was not made aware of anything.

Calls and messages to Zulu went unanswered.

A number of sources revealed that Zulu was suspended after it was found that she was allegedly linked to an overpayment of R64 million to security company Khuselani Security & Risk Management (KSA).

In April last year, The Witness reported that Zulu and other high-ranking municipal officials were fingered as being responsible for allegedly overpaying almost R8,5 million to KSA.

“Nothing was done then and this scandal continued. Now it is amounting to about R64 million,” said one source. The source said although finance manager Ngcobo was blamed for R100 million that went “missing” from the municipality under her watch, “this is not the only reason behind her suspension”.

The missing money was believed to be linked to municipal contractor, the Independent Development Trust (IDT), but a number of sources said Ngcobo allegedly openly defied the ANC leadership by refusing to sign off on a bid by VBS Mutual Bank to manage the City’s massive investments.

The little-known bank, that granted a loan to President Jacob Zuma to pay his portion for the upgrades at his Nkandla home, made a bid to manage the City’s almost R1 billion in investments last year.

Municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said she could not comment on the allegations of suspensions as the matter was strictly between employer and employee.

"Why did Ray Ngcobo survive?"

Questions surround why general manager for Economic Development Dr Ray Ngcobo survived the axe while his fellow managers faced suspension.

Councillors remained tight-lipped on the suspensions but one source said “back-biting” was rife among the managers.

Ngcobo was the subject of an investigation by the City’s Internal Audit head, Petrus Mahlaba, who was suspended before the report could be tabled at council last year.

At that time, Ngcobo faced two charges of gross ­misconduct, two of gross dishonesty and one of gross negligence. According to the charge sheet, which was leaked to The Witness last year, Ngcobo was accused of ordering furniture for the city’s Tourism Hub “without following the municipality’s supply chain management processes”.

He also allegedly paid close to R7 million to a company, ostensibly contracted to provide temporary housing for the Jika Joe project, but which had not delivered on the contract. Allied to those two charges, Ngcobo was accused of inciting other staff to engage in ­unprocedural and unlawful conduct, financial misconduct, and of improperly using his ­position and influence.

Ngcobo referred The Witness to the municipal spokesperson on this matter. 

Opposition Parties weigh in

Provincial deputy leader for the DA Mergan Chetty said they were not surprised at the suspensions “as the DA always highlighted the gross negligence of funds”.

Chetty said the DA raised concerns over the alleged overpayment to KSA and also exposed the municipality wanting to bank with VBS Mutual Bank.

“All these allegations are now coming to fruition. Of serious concern to us is why were these issues not raised in finance or executive committee meetings that are both chaired by the mayor?” asked Chetty.

He added that he found it “sinister” that Dr Ray Ngcobo “yet again managed to avoid the clutches of suspension”.

“These shenanigans clearly have the ANC region’s tentacles involved as it is no secret that those managers who do not comply with their directives are dealt with.”

An IFP member who did not want to be named said they felt the report was “not strong enough” as it did not show whether criminal charges were levelled against the trio.

“If it is allegations of corruption then it is very serious. We supported the report but we asked for it to be amended but the ANC refused.”

He also raised the issue that “certain” managers were singled out while others were “covered” up for although they faced similar allegations.

Other top managers suspended

• Msunduzi Municipality’s former city manager Mxolisi Nkosi was suspended with immediate effect on March 4, 2016 pending an investigation into alleged maladministration and corruption.

• In April, the head of Msunduzi’s Internal Audit Unit, Petrus Mahlaba, was also suspended.

• A few months later, Madeleine Jackson-Plaatjies, the manager in the office of the municipal manager, was suspended on July 14, with an assortment of allegations levelled against her.

Read more on:    msunduzi municipality  |  pietermaritzburg

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