First citizen of eThekwini alleged to have signed off irregular car leases just before 2016 local elections
eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede is alleged to have approved her city’s lease of 48 cars it didn’t need, only for them to be used for personal errands and ANC election campaigns.
The allegations come a week after Gumede was arrested for her alleged role in a R208-million tender scam.
She appeared in the Durban Regional Commercial Crimes Court on charges of corruption, fraud and money laundering.
The latest allegation against Gumede is that she approved the irregular vehicle lease shortly before she became mayor, when she was still the city’s emergency, safety and security portfolio chair, under whose authority the Durban Metro Police fell.
Through the lease, city officials allegedly hired themselves high-performance BMWs, Golf GTIs and Audis which they used for joyrides and to campaign for the ANC during the 2016 local government elections.
The details are contained in a report by eThekwini Municipality Audit and Risk Assurance Services, a unit in the city’s administration, which found after an investigation in 2017 that senior Durban Metro Police officials forged signatures, dropped Gumede’s name and falsified documents to hire 48 cars the city didn’t need for R5 million.
The investigators recommended that the contract “be rescinded and withdrawn” and all costs be declared as irregular expenditure.
The report alleges that:
. Eight of the cars, including three high-performance BMWs and an Audi A3 TSI, were leased under the pretext that they were for Gumede’s VIP protection. However, they were used by officials for their personal errands;
. One official who had a R9 200 car allowance took a BMW from the leased fleet for his personal use;
. Officials used the cars for personal business, some travelling as far as Joburg and Port Shepstone; and
. In just six months the city paid R1 million for fuel, R680 000 for insurance and R232 000 for repairs to all 48 cars.
The report found that the lease contract was irregular because it was an extension of another contract which had expired.
Also, two of the signatures did not belong to any of the five officials who signed the lease contract.
“In view of findings uncovered during the forensic audit, it appears that the hiring of the vehicles by City Fleet was marked by multiple irregularities ranging from dishonesty to deliberate misrepresentation, and blatant misuse and abuse of authority, management override of controls, and collusive tendencies,” the report found.
“All payments made are unauthorised and irregular since the contract cited is invalid, and we are concerned that such payments were made with the knowledge of the head: City Fleet and deputy head: Durban Metropolitan Police Services and metro police acting senior superintendent.”
The report further found that the council didn’t need to lease 48 cars because it already had a large fleet, which was underutilised or not used at all.
Three senior eThekwini officials told City Press the cars, whose six-month lease was signed in July 2016, a month before the local government election, were allegedly used by Gumede and other ANC councillors to campaign for the ANC.
“It doesn’t come out quite clearly in the report, but many of the cars were used to campaign for the ANC during the local government election in 2016. Gumede was chair of the council’s safety and security cluster and the leasing of cars for our metro would have fallen squarely on her shoulders,” said one.
Another said: “It is not a secret. Everyone in council knows that the cars were used to campaign for the ANC. Look at the timing. The lease was signed in mid-July 2016, just about two weeks before the election.”
Officials motivated the need for the 48 cars, saying they needed them to do more public order policing ahead of the elections.
The report also found that the city failed to motivate for why it needed such high-end and high-powered vehicles as BMWs, Audis and GTIs, which were unsuitable for public order policing.
The report found that, at first, the city signed a two-year fleet lease agreement in June 2013, but when it expired, continued using it for another year.
In May 2016 City Fleet, the unit in the city that deals with leasing, misled eThekwini’s bid adjudicating committee into extending the expired contract by another 12 months or R220 000, the report found.
At the time, the committee wasn’t aware of the contract, worth R1.4 million in 2013, had already expired.
Instead of the “minor amendment” they asked for, officials sneaked in the lease of 48 cars for six months, bringing the total value of the contract to about R4 million.
The eight cars purportedly set aside for Gumede’s VIP protection “were never used for the mayor’s protection”, the report found.
“Officials have used the name of the mayor to transgress supply chain laws and regulations. Irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure has been incurred in the name of the provision of VIP protection to the mayor.
Gumede, who has not been suspended, was reportedly asked to resign by the ANC’s integrity committee, but has not done so.
City spokesman Msawakhe Mayisela said the contract was awarded in May 2013, but started a year later in June 2014.
He denied any wrongdoing.
“This was extended for a further 12 months or 15% of the contract value, which amounted to R220 000. With regard to the total cost of R4 million, the general conditions of contract were invoked, which permitted the calling of quotations for the hire of vehicles.”
Following the 12-month extension, the contract only expired in June 2017.
The city, he said, had leased the vehicles following a needs analysis exercise which had determined that they were necessary.
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