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Bonus for theft accused manager

Mpumalanga - The manager of the Ehlanzeni (Nelspruit) district municipality received a R140 000 performance bonus, despite the public protector finding he should be charged with theft.

“For three consecutive years the municipal manager received clean audits, council gave the bonus based on that,” the municipality's spokesman Lucky Ngomane said on Wednesday.

He was responding to a report in Beeld that Hugh Mbatha received a “productivity bonus” despite Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's recommendations two weeks ago that criminal charges be laid against him for theft.

Ngomane said the council took a decision at last week's meeting to give Mbatha a bonus.

“And this was a closed session. I don't know how Beeld got that information.”

He said Madonsela's report was forwarded to the Municipal Public Accounts Committee for advice.

“As far as I know there are no criminal charges. If there are allegations, allegations are going to be allegations until they are proven otherwise,” Ngomane said.

Madonsela found Mbatha allegedly stole R120,000 from the municipality. This was the amount of money left over after Mbatha, three council members, and two other municipal officials went on a study tour to Italy in 2008.

Madonsela found that during the tour Mbatha ordered the municipality to transfer R165 000 into the credit card account of one of the travelling officials, apparently because the group “did not like the Italian food”.

After they returned, the remaining R120 000 was allegedly withdrawn from the account, and Mbatha allegedly gave R20 000 to each member of the group.

The recipients were reportedly Mbatha, previous mayor Constance Mkhonto, current mayor Letta Shongwe, former council member Jimmy Sithole, former community services manager Ernest Moukangwe, and deputy international relations manager Roy Makwakwa. - Sapa

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