DA defends Sutcliffe’s innocence

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Mike Sutcliffe

Durban - Claims that former eThekwini boss Michael Sutcliffe failed to report corruption in the municipality were incorrect – in fact, says the DA, he was the one who called for a forensic probe in the first place.

New evidence that he had reported goings-on in council emerged as city authorities formulate charges against employees in Durban’s previous administration.

The startling disclosure and unlikely defence of Sutcliffe came from the DA’s eThekwini Caucus leader, Tex Collins, a vociferous critic of Sutcliffe in the past.

Collins said he had a copy of a letter Sutcliffe wrote to the national Treasury in February last year, where he raised serious concerns at alleged political interference by certain Exco councillors and ANC regional executives in tender processes.

Sutcliffe sounded the alarm over corruption in the housing sector.

“The Manase (audit) investigations into irregularities allegedly claim that Sutcliffe failed to report corruption,” Collins said.

“But Sutcliffe’s letter… casts the Manase allegations in a very different light and is an indictment against Sithole and the MEC for Co-operative Governance because they failed to act sooner in pointing out this letter.

“We will be asking the Public Protector to investigate. Sutcliffe’s letter proves that he had taken definitive action against corruption – contrary to what our city manager, S’bu Sithole, led us to believe.

“The letter speaks volumes and proves that Sutcliffe was placed under a lot of political pressure and took steps to report it,” said Collins, adding that he was not defending Sutcliffe, but wanted to put the facts on the table.

“If Sutcliffe is guilty of anything, he needs to be brought to book, but I do not believe he benefited or acted in a corrupt way.

“This letter proves he had requested national intervention against corruption in the council,” Collins said.

Sutcliffe’s letter calls for urgent Treasury intervention to deal with his concerns:

l Attempts by certain ANC Exco councillors, with some regional ANC members, to remove him from office for their own political and pecuniary reasons.

l Political interference in certain tenders to favour senior ANC officials in the council.

l Allegations by certain officials that he failed to act against corruption within his housing unit – Sutcliffe outlines proof of action he had taken against staff guilty of corruption, and calls for a forensic probe into housing as a result.

l Concerns over certain individuals’ names being left out of the first forensic probe into irregularities in the council because they were linked to certain senior council officials.

l Concern that there was a witch hunt against him and others because they refused to give in to political influence to favour certain individuals in the tender process.

In his letter, Sutcliffe requested advice on dealing with the issues, arguing that he was being placed in a very difficult position. He claimed to have sought guidance from senior ANC provincial leaders over a plot to remove him from office.

Collins said Sutcliffe’s plea for help in dealing with the political pressure he was under had been “glossed over” in the report.

“The Manase report makes very little mention of these names and indicates to us that those names were deliberately not looked at in detail because of the political connections,” Collins said.

Approached for comment, Sutcliffe confirmed the existence of the letter, and also that he had sent it to the Treasury, asking for its intervention.

However, he would not be drawn any further, saying only that it would form part of his court action against Sithole. It is understood he intends claiming about R8 million in defamation damages. - Daily News

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