A struggling Limpopo municipality has appointed a municipal manager who was fired for “gross incompetence” by her previous employer, and who has allegedly racked up a R3.8 million bill for private security in a single month.
Now municipal workers union Samwu in Limpopo has opened a case of corruption at the Thohoyandou Police Station, asking that the “exorbitant” payment by the Vhembe District Municipality be investigated.
They have also approached the labour court to look into the legitimacy of Ndanduleni Makhari’s appointment as Vhembe’s municipal manager.
City Press has seen a letter from the Gauteng Gambling Board, where Makhari worked as chief financial officer, confirming she was fired in June last year following charges of “misconduct and gross incompetence”.
Samwu alleges that Makhari did not disclose any of this to her new employer and that her appointment was not going to solve the already troubled municipality’s woes.
Makhari said: “I didn’t appoint myself so I can’t comment on issues of my appointment. It should be the mayor or some other officials who should answer to that.”
Municipal spokesperson Matodzi Ralushai said the council knew of the issues raised regarding her appointment and the “matter is being discussed by provincial government with relevant stakeholders. Samwu is also ... participating in discussions while [Makhari] continues to perform municipality duties.”
Samwu opposed Makhari’s appointment late last year and went on strike in December. This led to the municipality hiring a private security firm, whose name is known to City Press, between December 8 and January 11.
The company’s R3.8 million invoice shows that 194 security guards, 40 of whom were armed, guarded 25 sites around the clock – mostly municipal water plants and offices. This translates to a cost of almost R20 000 each – R14 000 more than the highest salary a security guard would earn for a month’s work in Johannesburg.
Ralushai said the council hired the company after receiving a “security risk assessment report that indicated threats to municipality assets and infrastructure during the period of the workers’ strike. Payment made is for service rendered during the time.”
But Samwu provincial chairperson Timson Tshililo says this was a waste since the council had decided in 2015 to cut costs and in-source security services, after having spent R14 million on private security in 2014.
A bank account confirmation document City Press has seen shows that the company’s bank account, into which the R3.8 million payment was made, was only opened on January 22.
The municipality approved payment to the company on January 18 and Makhari signed the cheque requisition on January 29.
Furthermore, the council approved the payment on January 12 and cited a specific budget number from which the money should be paid.
In a cheque requisition form City Press has seen, the budget number was scratched out and replaced with another that council had not approved.
“Something is definitely wrong here; we have tried but we are not getting any explanation. Our municipality is on the brink of collapse because procedures and policies are being disregarded,” Tshililo said.
“So we ask ourselves why this municipality, which is failing to pay its employees and unable to provide services to our people, could sign such a luxury deal for only one month costing such a hefty amount of money.”
Ralushai said the council “will conduct an internal investigation on the payment administrative process and the amount to ensure that issues raised are addressed.”