'Pressure' in R8m contract to be probed

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IOL pic oct11 patricia de lille Independent Newspapers (File image) Cape Town mayor Patricia De Lille. Photo: Jason Boud

A confidential pupil transport report, a R2 million severance package to a Matzikama municipal manager and allegations that Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille pressed a chief financial officer to award an R8m contract are just some of the issues the province’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) will tackle this year.

Scopa held its first meeting for the year to plan its programme for the next 10 months yesterday.

Committee chairman and ACDP MPL Grant Haskin said members were preparing for a busy year ahead.

He said none of the matters reported to Scopa last year would “simply be dropped”.

“We will be looking at the annual reports of departments and what needs to be done to address the challenges, but we’ll also be focusing on three very important matters that were carried over from last year,” Haskin said.

The first big matter, he said, was a Western Cape Education Department (WCED) report on pupil transport.

The report was presented to Scopa last year on condition that it remained confidential.

Sources say the report shows that the department was negligent because it had not fulfilled the terms of its contract with pupil-transport service providers and had not inspected its vehicles regularly.

The negligence included not checking whether the number of seats in a vehicle matched the number of pupils the service provider was contracted to transport.

ANC MPL and Scopa member Max Ozinsky said the department was aware of the report at least five months before the Rheenendal tragedy.

Fourteen pupils and their driver died in Rheenendal when their school bus plunged into a river outside Knysna in 2011.

Last year, WCED head Penny Vinjevold told Scopa that the report could not be made public as it was an internal document.

Ozinsky said the ANC would consider launching a Promotion of Access to Information application to compel the department to make public the report.

The second matter, said Haskin, was whether a R2m severance package paid to former Matzikama municipal manager Gerhard Ras in 2005 should be refunded after it was found that the expenditure on his package was unauthorised.

The Finance MEC at the time, Lynne Brown, said no provision had been made for the expenditure in the Matzikama’s 2004/5 budget.

Ras is currently working for the City of Cape Town in De Lille’s office.

The third matter involves a former chief financial officer from Swellendam, Nigel Delo, who testified under oath before Scopa in 2011 that De Lille had called him and tried to strong-arm him into awarding an R8m tender to an asset management company which handled the finances of the ID, De Lille’s former political party, in 2009.

De Lille has denied the allegations.

Delo claimed he had proof that De Lille had called him, but this could not be backed up.

Haskin said Scopa had requested transcipts of the conversation and of Delo’s testimony.

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