uMgungundlovu District boss Dr Ray Ngcobo is amongst the district officials that could face criminal charges over the alleged flouting of supply chain management (SCM) regulations and procedures at the municipality.
This comes after the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) handed over four criminal referrals to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) following the recent conclusion of its probe into the procurement of goods and services for the Mandela Day Marathon; former president Jacob Zuma’s visit to Inzinga, in Impendle, in December 2017; uMgungundlovu’s integrated development plan (IDP) izimbizo; the SA Local Government Games (Salga Games); as well as the project management services for the compilation of the indigent register.
As part of the SIU’s presentation made to council on Thursday, a total of 11 disciplinary referrals have also been handed to the municipality on officials implicated in the alleged flagrant disregard of tender policies.
The service provider that was awarded the tender for Zuma’s visit, izimbizo and the marathon was ProActive Public Relations and Events while uMgungundlovu gave the Salga Games contract to KwaMashu’s Inono Events Co-ordination CC.
Most of SIU’s findings were against Ngcobo, where there were alleged irregularities with regards to the awarding of contracts for the events and related payments.
This includes the appointment of ProActive PR for the 2018 and 2019 marathon as well as the authorisation of the payments for the pre-payment of services for the Salga Games.
The SIU also found evidence against the district’s intergovernmental relations manager, Mbalenhle Ndlovu, and communications manager, Brian Zuma. It was recommended they be subjected to disciplinary proceedings as they may be guilty of misconduct in relation to the ProActive contracts for the marathon.
The pair, along with Dr Terrence Hlongwane, were also members of the bid evaluation committee for the Salga Games. They, together with the former acting head of finance, have been accused of “failing to execute their duties in a professional and competent matter and that such breaches may be construed as amounting to contraventions of sections of the MFMA [Municipal Finance Management Act]” in the appointment of Inono for the games.
On Zuma’s presidential visit, the SIU’s evidence pointed at the “commission of a criminal offence of financial misconduct” against the district’s former chief financial officer. This related to the alleged irregularities in the appointment of ProActive, which the SIU described as “grossly negligent”.
With regards to the izimbizo, the SIU said Ngcobo and Zuma may be guilty of misconduct in the contracting of ProActive. It was recommended they both be subjected to disciplinary proceedings and the matter was also amongst those referred to the NPA for possible criminal prosecution.
The SIU could not find the justification for the deviation from the SCM processes in the project management services for the compilation of the indigent register where the district went for an emergency procurement.
“This deviation was not supported by available evidence and no urgency or emergency existed,” read the document.
According to SIU, there was a potential for the district to recover R3,4 million worth of fruitless and wasteful expenditure from the implicated parties.
When asked when uMgungundlovu would action the recommendations of the SIU yesterday, Mayor Thobekile Maphumulo said she would bind herself with the resolution of the council — which is a decision-making body for the municipality. “I’m not an executive mayor so I do not make decisions on what should happen, when.”
Council is expected to meet in the next coming weeks to deliberate on the SIU’s referrals and consider the legal advice on the matter.
Zuma and Ndlovu referred The Witness to the district management for comment while Hlongwane rejected the SIU’s findings, saying he was not part of the bid evaluation panel meeting where the recommendation for Salga Games was made, so the use of his digital signature on the report concerned was fraudulent. Attempts to get comments from both ex-CFOs were unsuccessful.
“Scores to settle”
Ngcobo said he rejected the SIU findings related to him because its referrals letters “are one-sided and are showing scores to settle” as they made no mention of a number of persons and politicians that had a case to answer.
“I have approached the public protector against the abuse of power and [had] I had money, I would have gone to court to challenge these politically-inspired letters.
“I have never been involved in tenders and it is strange that people who were directly involved are not cited. The various people who were directly involved have their supervisors to report to. I am not allowed in law to participate or interfere with the SCM process and I have never done so.”
As an accounting officer, Ngcobo said he accepted these inconclusive referrals and was aware that, in terms of Municipal Regulations on Financial Misconduct Procedures and Criminal proceedings, as well as in terms the Local Government: Municipal Finance Management Act, he is compelled to take the SIU allegation seriously.
He said it was his responsibility to disclose the poor quality of work, especially because he was expected to approve millions of rands towards poor workmanship where certain parties, including himself, were not interviewed about some aspects of the SIU’s investigation.
“Why did the SIU ignore the many letters written to it by the municipal attorneys about the conduct of certain investigators? Why did they rely on disgruntled officials as the only witnesses, who were already facing disciplinary cases, some of whom have already resigned to avoid dismissal?”
He said all these as well as the allegations against councillors who were implicated, were raised with some of the investigators of the SIU but were ignored. He said they also refused to accept the many forensic reports which were compiled on some of the allegations.
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Ngcobo said other processes that were also flouted during the investigation include the failure to present of the SIU reports to the relevant council structures within the stipulated time frames such as the seven days for the referral letters. “I have taken a decision to accept these referral letters of the SIU and would work with them in testing their wrong understanding of the SCM process.
“In order to take the matter forward, as an accounting officer of council, I will seek answers from all officials who were involved with SCM, including those that have subsequently resigned and everybody else that was involved in all the allegations. I will be asking questions about the involvement of certain senior councillors in the alleged corrupt activities ...”
Ngcobo said he was expecting that the disciplinary board would be established and conduct a preliminary probe to determine whether or not the allegations were founded.
“If, during a preliminary investigation, the disciplinary board determines that the allegation is frivolous, vexatious, speculative or obviously unfounded, the SIU investigation will be communicated to the Presidency, and those politicians who are masquerading as investigators would be disclosed,” he said.