In a desperate bid to recover a R41.2 million owed by one of the 10 worst-run municipalities in the country, an electricity contractor has successfully attached the vehicles and an investment account of undisclosed amount of the platinum-rich Greater Tubatse municipality in Burgersfort.
Municipal managers repeatedly delayed paying Mphaphuli Consulting (Pty) Ltd for its work on a R231-million pilot electrification project called Operation Mabone until the company approached the Polokwane High Court for help. The project aims to electrify 13 500 households in 24 villages.
The attachment has paralysed the municipality’s traffic department with officers not having vehicles to perform their duties this festive season. This could only change if the municipality paid four invoices of R21.1 million, R3.6 million, R1.8 million and R14.6 million. Other vehicles that have been attached include trucks, earth-moving vehicles and the mayoral vehicles.
Greater Tubatse municipal manager Johannes Mohlala scrambled unsuccessfully to reverse the attachment of the council’s vehicles pending the payment. He approached the court three times but instead incurred more legal expenses for the municipality. Mohlala’s latest bid in the Polokwane High Court failed on Thursday.
City Press also understands that Mohlala intended taking the matter to the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein.
Mphaphuli Consulting (Pty) Ltd chief executive officer, Lufuno Mphaphuli, said that some invoices were paid four months late without any explanation and that created serious cash-flow problems for his company also forcing it to delay payments to its contractors.
He said there was no need for delayed payment since the project was funded by the energy department, which transferred all the Integrated Electrification Project funds to the municipality’s account on time.
Two sources in the municipality said Mphaphuli Consulting was being frustrated to give up on the project so that a new contractor with political connections in the Greater Sekhukhune region could be appointed.
“Managers here are taking instructions from politicians who only want companies that will pay kickbacks,” a source said.
Mphaphuli said that since his company was appointed in 2013, the municipality has changed municipal managers, chief finance officers and technical managers five times.
“The institutional memory of this project has been lost. Those [officials] who come in just assumed that everything before them was corrupt and they try to change things,” Mphaphuli said.
“The current manager [Mohlala] has done nothing to help and they don’t even attend the switch-on ceremonies”, he added.
Municipal spokesperson, Kubane Tolo, said the municipality’s lawyers were still negotiating with Mphaphuli Consulting (Pty) Ltd.
“In terms of the alleged contract any dispute between the parties should be settled through arbitration and mediation, something that never happened in this case,” Tolo said.
He said that the municipality was fortunate because it was in recess.
“The traffic officials are still working as they’re using their own subsidised vehicles,” Tolo added.
Last month, Mohlala averted the attachment of municipal properties when a company hired to compile annual financial statements approached the court after it had not been paid R1.8 million, which had accumulated R2.2 million in interest. He paid R3 million to Munsoft (Pty) Ltd.
Early this year, the municipality lost a high court case after it appointed two companies for a R14 million job of designing and installing 40 high-mast lights.
Mohlala’s predecessor, Adelaide Monyepao, had appointed Bawelile Consulting Engineers in January 2014 for the job.
However, Mohlala and awarded the same contract to Volt Consulting Engineers 11 months later without an open bidding process – as required by the Municipal Finance Management Act for every tender valued at more than R200 000.
Bawelile successfully applied for an interdict to stop the municipality from implementing the project and making payments to Volt Engineering. The tender has had to be reviewed and awarded again.
Mohlala defended his appointment of Volt Engineering claiming it was according to municipal supply chain management regulation 32 of 2005. The regulation guides a municipality on how to procure goods and services from a company under a contract secured by another state organ.
In this case, Mohlala should have obtained documents indicating how Volt was appointed and table the matter before the council. He did not do so.
Research organisation, Good Governance Africa, found last year after its review of the country 234 municipalities that Greater Tubatse was among the 10 the worst-run.