Durban - Former city manager Michael Sutcliffe believes that the “rubbish” circulated about him in wake of the Manase report might hinder his new business venture.
Sutcliffe, who established his consulting company, City Insight (Pty) Ltd, late last year with former senior municipal colleague Sue Bannister, said people appeared to be hesitant about conducting business with him after he was allegedly implicated in the forensic audit report.
“The rubbish circulated around the Manase report has made things harder and many people are nervous about doing business with us,” he said in an interview this week.
The Daily News had asked if he was concerned about the perception that his business would get preferential treatment because of his previous position as city manager, and his overall role in the ANC.
Sutcliffe is suing the city for R10 million for allegedly defaming him by suggesting that it had lost R1.1m because of his failure to report fraud, which was uncovered during a probe by auditing firm Manase & Associates. The municipality has defended its actions, and the case is currently in court.
Sutcliffe said he had received lots of support from councillors, officials, and the private sector for his business venture. “Now let’s see if we can get some work.”
Bannister denied the company would get preferential treatment, saying tenders were mainly awarded on the competency of the company doing the work, and the price offering - “not on who you know or don’t know”.
“We think our advantage is our combined work experience, competency and the fact that we charge reasonable rates,” she said.
Early last month Sutcliffe’s successor, Sibusiso Sithole, said he was more than willing to do business with him.
Sithole, who has been embroiled in legal action with Sutcliffe since last year, had said the city would have no qualms about working with Sutcliffe’s business.
“An outfit like theirs is certainly welcomed in the city, country and the continent as a whole,” he said, adding that, contrary to popular belief, there was no bad blood between him and Sutcliffe.
“I have no problems with dealing with him or his company as long as they offer services the city requires.”
City Insight, which researches and offers advice on the delivery of services and innovative practices in more than 80 African cities, is writing a report on the delivery of water, sanitation, electricity, public transport, roads and solid waste across African municipalities.
“South Africa’s free basic services strategy is something the world should learn from and many of Africa’s economic success stories are things from which we as South Africans must learn,” Sutcliffe said.
“Also, the fact (is) that you can throw as much money and resources into a municipality, but without good management strategies, a dedicated team and a solid strategy, you will never reach your goals.”
As a fledgling company, City Insight was offering free consultancy advice to people, he said. “In time, we need to turn that into paying for costs.
“We (Sutcliffe and Bannister) are both passionate about cities and their development and want to work with governments, the private sector and civil society on urban development and governance issues,” he added.
Sutcliffe, closely involved in the successful Durban beachfront upgrade, said he would also love to offer his services as the city continued with the renovations.
While South Africa was still feeling the effects of the recession, Sutcliffe said he was confident his business would survive, as long as it had a good strategy and was well run.
“Neither of us believes in looking back and didn’t want to go back into formal employment,” he said when asked if he harboured any ambitions of getting back into city administration.