Deputy Public Protector denies Ekurhuleni meddling

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Kevin Malunga
Kevin Malunga

In a desperate attempt to clear his name and possibly regain his integrity, a former Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality official has accused deputy Public Protector Kevin Malunga of allegedly torpedoing a probe involving millions of rands that he had attempted to expose.

But according to the Public Protector’s office, Malunga will not be formally charged following a complaint filed against him by former Ekurhuleni metro adjudication committee member Mesuli Mlandu, who says he was fired for whistle-blowing and revealing fraud amounting to hundreds of millions of rands.

The complaint against Malunga was filed last month for his alleged interference in an investigation implicating former Ekurhuleni mayor Mondli Gungubele and municipal manager Khaya Ngema in allegations of fraud and irregular expenditure.

Mlandu was fired by the metro in 2014 on what he described as trumped up charges in a bid to get him kicked out for refusing to give false evidence about a 2012 tender process. After failing to get protection and secure his job, he agreed to a settlement with the metro last year following a protracted legal dispute. The settlement led to the reversal of the termination of his employment.

City Press learnt that Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane met with Mlandu and Ekurhuleni DA MP Mike Waters to discuss the allegations against Malunga and the municipality on Monday last week.

According to Mlandu: “We met to discuss my submission on the actions of advocate Malunga who had refused to report that the former executive mayor and municipal manager had committed fraud and irregular expenditure by administering Ekurhuleni municipality from 18 May 2012 until 31 August 2016. They did this through a person who was not a municipal manager as defined in the [Municipalities] Act and had not been properly appointed.”

What worried Mlandu was a letter written by the investigator in the Public Protector’s office on May 22 this year, which said “no remedial action will be made on the irregular appointment” of Ngema because he has vacated his office.

“Some of the complaints have been overtaken by events, i.e. the city manager and the executive mayor have resigned. The parties signed a settlement agreement to resolve other complaints,” the letter read.

Mlandu’s settlement only entailed payment of his salary and bonus from the date he was fired. It also included the withdrawal of his unfair dismissal but not details about the allegations of irregular expenditure or the intimidation he suffered.

He said he asked Mkhwebane to investigate those behind the irregular expenditure and intimidation and hold them criminally and financially liable. He also wanted to clear claims that Gungubele and Ngema had allegedly made against him and his colleagues blaming them for tender irregularities of least R7.2 billion. He wanted his dismissal declared unlawful as well.

Mlandu said he hoped Malunga’s actions would be taken as an insult to the people of Ekurhuleni and the rule of law and inappropriate for his office by Parliament.

According to Mlandu, at least R10 million paid to Ngema as his salary over the period of his employment was unjustified because he had no contract with the municipality. He said 283 irregularly awarded tenders resulted in R7.2 billion in irregular expenditure and that R117 billion in irregular expenditure was due to decisions made by Ngema, who was a “bogus municipal manager”.

Although Waters admitted that the DA has been involved in the case, he declined to comment further, saying he would rather wait for the release of the Public Protector’s draft report.

“If there was any interference in the investigation we will obviously take the matter further,” he said.

However, the Public Protector’s spokesperson, Cleopatra Mosana, said an internal inquiry was conducted after the complaint against Malunga was received.

“After considering all sides and verifying the evidence, the Public Protector decided not to refer the matter to the National Assembly for further action.”

Mosana said an investigation into allegations against Ekurhuleni during the tenure of Gungubele and Ngema was in its final stages.

This week, Malunga said had never seen Mlandu’s file and therefore could not have manipulated it.

“Mr Mlandu is understandably frustrated and needs some sort of a scapegoat for the delay in finalising his investigation,” he said, adding that investigations in the Public Protector’s office were conducted using “a quality assurance mechanism that culminates in the report being signed off by the Public Protector”.

“During the tenure of former mayor Mondli Gungubele, at the request of our Gauteng office, I discussed a list of almost 150 complaints against Ekurhuleni municipality with the mayor and his team and they were given a timeline to respond.

“Mr Mlandu has the incorrect impression that the meeting with former mayor Gungubele was about him. It was not. It was about almost 150 matters affecting many things including billing,” he said.

Malunga said he had a “very limited” role in the investigation as it was not his project. “I have very scant knowledge of it,” Malunga said.

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