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Pretoria - Senior municipal officials and political leaders, including Tshwane mayor and ANC regional chairman Kgosientso Ramokgopa, will not be spared if found by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to have been involved in corrupt activities.
This is according to Ramokgopa, who told the Pretoria News in a wide-ranging interview this week that the municipality had opened itself up to scrutiny and co-operated with the SIU in its corruption investigation into the municipality.
The SIU investigation into the municipality was authorised by President Jacob Zuma through a Presidential Proclamation he signed in 2010 following allegations of widespread corruption in the city.
According to Ramokgopa, the scourge of corruption was “endemic” before he took office and many corrupt officials were facing disciplinary measures due to the crackdown by his administration.
“Before we came into office, corruption had reached levels where anybody describing it as endemic would not be far off the mark. You just need to look at the kind of things the SIU is uncovering with its investigation.
“You have people in the employ of the city who are doing business with the municipality. They might not be actively involved in those companies, but they are directors.
“While we are paying them a salary, they are also making an income from those companies. They are pillaging from the same municipality they work for.”
Ramokgopa added that the municipality had reduced the number of tender deviations, which used to cost it about R120 million a month as contracts were extended irregularly by officials.
Also, the municipality had exceeded its overtime allocation by up to more than R70m a month.
“People were abusing a fair and transparent process. People were claiming overtime they had not worked and this was easily done,” he said.
Ramokgopa also said that many had used their roles and positions in the ANC and the municipality to enrich themselves.
“You had other instances where people outside the system were trying to use their political weight to influence the processes.
“This is something we are attending to at an ANC level. You had someone saying, ‘I’m representing the ruling party and so please fund us for this and that’, in exchange for whatever.
“The ANC has come out strongly to say that we are not in that business. Some service providers have also come forward to say that they have paid people in the bid evaluation committees in return for a particular tender.
“These things are not only being dealt with internally, but we are involving the public protector and the Hawks as well.”
According to Ramokgopa, the leadership had to be bold and subject itself to the same process and scrutiny, regardless of positions they held.
“Whether it is the mayor, the city manager, (members of the mayoral committee) or chairpersons of committees, if they are found to be involved they must be charged. There should be no holy cows,” he said.
He said one of the steps taken was to change the bid evaluations committees every six months to avoid people developing “undesirable relationships”.
According to Ramokgopa, the municipality was working to fix its often-dysfunctional bus service. Passengers have often been left stranded because of mechanical breakdowns in the antiquated fleet and sporadic strikes.
“Some of the problems are largely due to management failure, with instances where workers withdrew their labour because they were not paid the overtime money due to them. And this happened not because there was no money, but because of management failure.”
Ramokgopa said the city was replenishing its fleet, which is expected to complement the Bus Rapid System that is to start operating in February next year.
He said the incorporation of the Metsweding District Municipality, which included the Nokeng tsa Taemane, Tswaing and Kungwini Local Municipalities, into Tshwane, had brought its own challenges.
“While the rationale of incorporating these low-revenue municipalities… is well-reasoned, it added to already high backlogs in the provision of decent housing and other services. We inherited a lot of informal settlements, and the revenue base of the municipalities was not well.
“We have raised this issue with National Treasury and the province, that in actual practice there’s still a need for a restructuring grant to make the incorporation more meaningful.”