NOTE: In an earlier version of this article, The Citizen erroneously reported that the contract with Sage Pastel Evolution was found to be improper. The public protector had, in fact, found that even though there were issues with the procurement processes, accusations against Sage and the implementation of the Pastel Evolution solution were not “substantiated”.
The Citizen regrets the error and reputational damage caused to Sage, previously known as Softline. The article below has been updated to reflect the correction.
In her latest scathing report, new public protector Adv Busisiwe Mkhwebane does not mince her words on alleged rot uncovered during her office’s investigation into allegations of nepotism, corruption and maladministration at the Ngaka Modiri District Municipality in Mahikeng, North West province.
The complaint was raised by former municipal employees who were either on suspension, fired or facing disciplinary action instituted by the former municipal manager, Mokgele Mojaki.
In their complaints, employees challenged Mojaki’s failure to follow due processes, particularly around his secondment from the premier’s office and subsequent appointment. They also queried proper procurement processes not being followed when appointing service providers.
The employees accused the municipal manager of purging several staff members for identifying and complaining about the alleged anomalies, which were attributable to the alleged lack of skills, qualifications and relevant experience by Mojaki. During investigations, the municipality agreed that Mojaki, upon being seconded, appointed several senior staff members and entered into agreements with service providers.
The municipality argued the secondment was in terms of a Central District Municipality Delegation System document. This policy document seems to have given the municipality the green light to appoint an administrator to “turn the municipality around”.
The Public Protector also notes how the then municipal manager at some point blocked the investigating team’s visit to the municipal premises. Information and documents were later extracted using a subpoena in terms of section 7(4) of the Public Protector Act.
The Public Protector ruled that Mojake’s secondment and appointment were above board. She, however, ruled that the municipality should reimburse the premier’s office an amount of R104 347.41. The amount relates to Mojaki earning two salaries from both departments for a period of three months.
“The municipality failed to avail any documentary proof that such an exchange of money took place,” the report notes.
With respect to irregular appointments, the report finds that “the conduct of Mr Mojaki in the appointments of these officials through headhunting was therefore irregular”.
Most of the candidates were appointed even though they had conflict of interest, such as doing work for the municipality or working for a consulting company owned by the municipal manager. In some instances salaries were increased from R250 000 to R650 000, and from R350 000 to R1 million.
In one instance, an employee of the municipality, Seymour Williams, who also did work for Mojaki’s consultancy, was “rewarded with a Chevrolet SS bakkie” by a service provider.
Remedial action required by Mkhwebane includes that the speaker of council “institute civil proceedings against Mojaki for the recovery of all moneys lost by the municipality as a result of his ineptitude and abuse of authority”. The speaker is also required to determine if the reimbursement due to the premier’s office took place.
The speaker is further required to reinstate all employees as ordered by the Labour Court and “issue a formal apology for the mistreatment they had suffered under Mojaki’s authority”. The contracts of all senior appointments made by Mojaki are to be reviewed.
The speaker was also asked to review all contracts awarded by the municipal manager and take “urgent steps to recover the 185% rapid escalation in salary increases within a period of a year” to some employees authorised by Mojaki.
The council speaker was given 30 days to submit to the Office of the Public Protector an implementation plan in respect of remedial action she would take against Mojaki. Within three months, a report detailing remedial action taken needed to be submitted to Mkhwebane’s office.
Public Protector spokesperson Oupa Segalwe told The Citizen that once a report was released to the public it meant “the respondent has received it and it’s up to them whether to take it on review or implement immediately”.
When contacted, several officials referred The Citizen to different units of the municipality.