Having been under provincial administration on and off since 2011, the local municipality was once again brought under the control of the KZN department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) in March 2019, reports Zululand Observer.
Since Cogta’s intervention, forensic investigations have revealed corruption and looting reportedly costing the municipality an estimated financial loss of R136 million.
In a case of suspected tender fraud, it is alleged that one company – which has no business with the municipality – was paid R12 million.
On top of this, only about half the municipality’s senior officials and employees are qualified for the positions they hold, with the rest not even meeting the municipality’s minimum requirements for the job.
Municipal manager Siyabonga Ntuli told the media that the embattled municipality faces theft, corruption and looting.
But these allegations are nothing new at Mtubatuba, after years of the same while crucial municipal services – including infrastructure maintenance – fail to be rendered.
And while Ntuli is quoted as saying: “We are trying to correct all that wrong”, his career has not been covered in glory.
Having previously been appointed as municipal manager at Mtubatuba municipality, Ntuli resigned in February 2015 under a cloud of financial mismanagement allegations for which he was suspended and thoroughly investigated.
He was officially charged on 52 charges amounting to misconduct.
While Ntuli’s resignation brought the disciplinary action that should have been instituted against him to nought, the then Cogta-appointed municipal administrator, Bamba Ndwandwe, brought civil charges against him.
Ntuli was suspended in October 2014, on full pay of his R900,000 salary, as a variety of allegations were investigated.
As reported at the time, these included his payment of striking workers despite the ‘no work, no pay’ policy in place and failure to present a legally valid valuation roll, which would have lost the municipality R25 million, had Cogta not intervened.
Cogta-led investigations in 2014 revealed issues at Mtubatuba Municipality including junior employees being paid senior-level salaries, councillors not paying rates, inflated annual increases, liabilities exceeding assets, misappropriated conditional grants amounting to the millions, and an overspend on councillors’ subsistence and travel by 347%.
The municipality was dissolved in 2015, but it appears the same problems plaguing Mtubatuba then have been allowed to continue and worsen.
Ndwandwe said the reinstatement of Ntuli as municipal manager was a legal issue as he could not hold the position without facing the civil charges brought against him in 2015, as these are still pending in court.
Mtubatuba mayor Velangenkosi Gumede said they were happy with Ntuli’s appointment as municipal manager and did not wish to dwell on matters of the past.
“We took what we had in front of us. He applied for the advertised post and met all the requirements,” said Gumede.
“We also carried out reference checks at other municipalities at which he had been municipal manager, including eDumbe, eNdumeni and Jozini, and the feedback we received was good.”
Mayor Gumede said councillors welcomed the findings of the forensic investigation and the next step was for “consequence management to kick in”.
“If there is money that is to be paid back, it must be done.”
He said that since Ntuli’s appointment as municipal manager in October, he had taken ownership of the position, taken control of the employees and was capable of enforcing council resolutions.