Public Protector orders North West municipality to reinstate whistleblower

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: Jacques Nelles

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: Jacques Nelles

She found that Mpho Seero was suspended in retaliation for blowing the whistle on ‘irregular and unauthorised expenditure’ of over R54 million.

The public protector, advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, has ordered Matlosana Local Municipality in North West to reinstate a whistleblower and to put in place a policy to protect whistleblowers.

Mkhwebane found that the municipality suspended Mpho Seero, the chief audit executive, in retaliation for blowing the whistle on what he considered to be irregular and unauthorised expenditure at the municipality.

Mkhwebane instituted an investigation after Seero alleged that the former acting municipal manager, Sipho Mabuda, improperly suspended him following Seero’s submission of a protected disclosure to the municipal council.

The disclosure involved what Seero considered to be irregular procurement activities involving irregular expenditure of R32,442,930. 39 between 2003 and 2013 for fuel at a local petrol station, unauthorised expenditure of R160,662,953.11 and irregular expenditure of R 21,802,287.38 on municipal infrastructure grant (MIG) projects. He also believed Supply Chain Management regulation 36 had been misused.

Regulation 36 allows for money to be released in cases of emergency, which means normal processes don’t have to be adhered to as time is considered limited (for example clean-up operations after flood damage).

On the fuel matter, council had appointed Seero to lead an investigation involving irregular expenditure at a local petrol station. Seero found that vehicles not listed in the municipal fleet were filled with petrol or diesel more than once a day. He also found that there was no service agreement between the municipality and the petrol station.

Following her investigation, the public protector found that Seero’s suspension was unreasonable, unfair and could justifiably be seen as an exercise by Mabuda to remove Seero, who had accused Mabuda of being involved in the corrupt activities.

Mkhwebane directed the current municipal manager to ensure that Seero was reinstated to his position within 30 days of the date on the final report, which was May 13.

The municipal manager was also to ensure that the public protector’s report was tabled before council and had to write a letter on behalf of the municipality apologising to Seero for the prejudice he experienced.

The municipal manager also had to ensure that a policy dealing with protected disclosures in the workplace was developed to create “a culture of openness and accountability without fear of reprisals or occupational detriment”, within 90 working days.

African News Agency (ANA)

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