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Durban - Former city manager Mike Sutcliffe has turned his guns on Manase & Associates, demanding that the audit firm conducts a proper investigation of events at eThekwini Municipality during his tenure.
This emerged as Sutcliffe gave his successor at the helm of the metro, Sibusiso Sithole, formal notice he was about to sue him and the municipality over allegations in the wake of the Manase report.
In a letter via his lawyer to Manase & Associates, Sutcliffe called on the firm to reopen its forensic probe amid allegations that he failed to report certain irregularities in the Mariannridge Housing Project in Durban and failed to report corruption, resulting in a loss of R1.1 million to the municipality.
Sutcliffe has repeatedly rejected the allegations and now claims Manase had simply “lifted wrong information” from an earlier, controversial report by audit firm Ngubane & Co, without carrying out proper investigations of its own.
The Ngubane report was set aside amid concerns over the accuracy of its findings and criticism from Sutcliffe that the firm had a close relationship with former mayor, Obed Mlaba, who was also implicated in the investigation at the time.
“I am instructed that there was no negligence nor any failure to report irregular or unlawful conduct,” lawyer Roger Knowles wrote to Manase recently on Sutcliffe’s behalf. “...My client avers that there was no loss of R1.1 million on this contract, nor any other amount.”
In failing to check the accuracy of the allegations contained in the Ngubane report, the letter went, “you have brought the good name of my client into disrepute. You opened the door, as it were, for the misreporting and damaging allegations that have followed”.
“You are requested to reopen your investigations and properly investigate the issues, rather than adopt the version contained in the Ngubane report,” stated the letter from Sutcliffe’s lawyer.
It also called on Manase, once it had uncovered the facts, for an unqualified apology for the damage suffered by the former city manager. Sutcliffe has taken on all parties since the contentious partial release of the Manase report earlier this year, which he said was flawed, unfair and inaccurate in many parts.
“Manase has never asked me about issues which they found against me, nor have they investigated many matters which I brought to their attention.
“In their own report they tacitly admit that their allegations should be put to the persons and they be allowed to comment before charges are formulated or drawn up. Yet, the MEC and others have tried these people in the court of public opinion before being allowed the chance to even correct the mistakes,” said Sutcliffe, who has refused to back down from his legal challenge.
He has already served a notice of intention to sue Sithole, whom he is suing for more than R8m after Sithole publicly declared that he would charge Sutcliffe with crime for failing to report alleged corruption while in office.
While Manase has not responded to Sutcliffe’s attack on its work, eThekwini spokesman, Thabo Mofokeng, said the municipality was already implementing Manase’s recommendations.
He referred all queries to the office of provincial Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta).
Cogta spokesman, Lennox Mabaso, said they were happy with the work of Manase. “This report was adopted by full council and while Sutcliffe is entitled to his opinion on the report, we will not allow ourselves to become distracted from the issues at stake.
“Sutcliffe, like all others, was invited by Manase investigators to make his representations during the probe and he has not approached COGTA with any evidence of what he is saying about Manase’s work,” Mabaso told the Daily News.
On continuing criticism over the failure to release the report to the public, Mabaso called on people to be patient and allow the processes to be completed.
“We are not hiding anything or protecting anyone by not releasing the report now. We simply need to allow the municipality the space to implement the report’s recommendations before releasing it,” Mabaso said. Daily News