The auditor-general might be smiling from ear to ear to see his call for consequences against errant and corrupt officials becoming a reality as a group of senior and middle level officials a KwaZulu-Natal municipality are to face a slew of criminal charges for their alleged involvement in corruption amounting to R35 million.
Co-operative governance and traditional affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube cracked the whip on the officials of the former Ezinqoleni municipality who included former senior executives in administration, top officials and staff in the supply chain management unit. Her department further instructed for the council to look as to whether there were any councillors who contravened the Councillors’ Code of Conduct in terms of the Municipal Systems Act.
The matter would also be reported to the SAPS as required under the Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities Act.
Ray Nkonyeni municipality came into being after the merger of the former Ezinqoleni municipality and the Hibiscus Coast municipality in August last year at the recommendation of the Municipal Demarcations Board. The investigation was undertaken by Dube-Ncube’s department at the request of Ray Nkonyeni municipality, after the auditor-general had picked up that money had been spent irregularly.
It is alleged that the R35 million was irregularly spent at Ezinqoleni within just one month before the municipal systems were consolidated and the two municipalities merged.
Dube-Ncube said the forensic investigations had recommended a slew of charges including criminal, disciplinary measures and civil recoveries against the staff members of former Ezinqoleni municipality who are now in the employ of the Ray Nkonyeni municipality. She said those who have since left should be charged criminally and civil recoveries considered.
The probe found that tender procedures were violated in the building of community halls. In other projects, the appointment of service providers flouted the supply chain management processes, and the processes followed did not comply with legal requirements. This, according to the report, resulted in irregular expenditure, irregular awarding of tenders and inflated costs which financially prejudiced the citizens of the merged Ray Nkonyeni municipality.
It is understood that as the officials realised that the municipality was about to be merged with Hibiscus Coast, they thought they should “spend” as much as possible hoping that the expenditure would not be detected. It is not clear how the money was used but it’s believed that the funds went into the officials’ pockets.
“We urge the Ray Nkonyeni municipality as a successor in title to expeditiously attend to the contents and recommendations of the report and as such we are giving the council an opportunity to report to us within 21 days informing us of their plan of action to implement the findings and recommendations contained in the report,” said Dube-Ncube.
The MEC commended the council of the new municipality for initiating the investigation with the support of her department.
“It is indeed a breath of fresh air and a commitment to clean and transparent government and implementing consequence management for wrongdoing. Today’s tabling of this important forensic report is the culmination of hard work by KZN Cogta which continuously ensures that all wrongdoing in municipalities is investigated without fear or favour by an independent party. This makes today a big day for openness and transparency at the former Ezinqoleni municipality,” Dube-Ncube said.
“We are committed to investigating all instances of wrongdoing, including fraud and corruption, in municipalities that are brought to our attention. The department conducts a multitude of investigations simultaneously and reports on the progress of all ongoing investigations to the Provincial Legislature on a regular basis,” said Dube-Ncube.
Departmental spokesperson Lennox Mabaso said it is normal procedure for the MEC to present the investigative report before the full council and to give the council a chance to come up with a plan on how they plan to deal with the issue, including the implementation of the recommendations.