BALDWIN NDABA AND |SHAIN GERMANER
In a fiery radio interview this morning Gauteng MEC for Housing Humphrey Mmemezi vehemently denied a series of allegations made against him by The Star in recent weeks.
There were seven denials, a threat to sue for defamation, and unanswered questions as Mmemezi slammed his detractors during an interview on Talk Radio 702.
The latest accusation against him is that he approved an unwarranted car allowance for his daughter and five other Mogale City council employees, ordering that hers be backdated for four years.
Mmemezi’s strong denials came after his repeated failure to respond to questions from The Star over the past few weeks.
Denial 1: Mmemezi denied that he was about to be fired, claiming he had met Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane and that he had filed numerous reports regarding his alleged financial mismanagement and nepotism with the Integrity Commissioner.
Denial 2: Mmemezi said his personal assets had not been audited since the release of reports claiming that he had used his state-issued credit card for personal purchases. He said it was his department |that had been audited, but this |was typical for these kinds of allegations.
Denial 3: He said he did not misuse his government credit card. He said officials on his level were, according to the rights dictated by the ministerial handbook, entitled to make personal purchases as long as they paid the money back. One such example was a painting he reportedly bought from McDonald’s for R10 000.
Explaining his actions, Mmemezi said that despite a monthly allowance of R50 000, he had only spent R150 000 of his department’s budget in the past 18 months.
Denial 4: Mmemezi said he |had not failed to submit an accident report in a recent car crash in |his state-issued vehicle, denying again that the department had been forced to pay for repairs due to insurance issues.
Mmemezi said he had filed the report “within 30 minutes of the crash”, and that the driver of the other vehicle had fled the scene because “he was drunk”.
Denial 5: Mmemezi said he had not received any questions regarding the allegations against him from The Star. He said reports had been published without him having been given the chance to respond. “I am one MEC not to dodge questions,” he told 702’s John Robbie.
Denial 6: Mmemezi rejected claims that he had hired his niece as a secretary within his department, and taken her on overseas trips while leaving his personal assistant behind.
Denial 7: Mmemezi said he was not responsible for approving and backdating an unwarranted car allowance for his daughter. In pointed tones throughout the interview, he denied any financial mismanagement and said that at that stage in his career he did not have the authority to sign off on the allowance alone.
Describing himself at the time as a “junior official” and “a nobody” within the Mogale City Municipality, Mmemezi said the car allowance was signed off first by several senior officers including the chief financial officer, municipal manager and other higher-ups in the human resources department before he signed merely the calculations.
He did not clarify, however, if he was responsible for the four years of back payments reportedly paid out to his daughter.
Mogale City Municipality documents titled “Adjustment of Travelling Allowances” have been seen by The Star. Signed by Mmemezi on May 19, 2010, the document shows that Mmemezi’s daughter Nomvuzo, Binang Monkwe, Alta Schoeman, Tshiamo Senosi, Wilna Scott |and Dorah Nzwane were each given car allowances. Nomvuzo’s was backdated to February 1, 2006; Monkwe’s to July 1, 2007; Schoeman’s to July 1, 2008; Scott’s to October 1, 2008; Senosi’s to January 1, 2009; and Nzwane’s to July 1, 2009.
The six had jointly petitioned the municipal manager for the retrospective adjustment.
The petition was supported by senior managers Shirley van Niekerk, manager of expenditure, and Japhter Makhafola, manager of budget treasury.
A week before Mmemezi signed the document, he had been warned by Mogale City Municipality’s acting municipal manager, Shirley Mathebula, that “retrospective payments have never been upheld by the MM (municipal manager)”.
Tackled directly on this point by Robbie, Mmemezi said he had not been warned, and neither he nor his daughter was in the wrong.
The adjustments were signed off by chief financial officer Leslie Mahuma, head of corporate services David Mokoena and Mathebula.
Mmemezi, manager of human capital management in the council at the time, is believed to have signed off on the payment.
Confidential sources with knowledge of the council’s policies told The Star that Mmemezi’s daughter did not qualify for a car allowance when she was employed by the municipality in 2006.
According to these insiders, “locomotive holding positions (travel costs) or car allowances were only given to managers and senior managers in the municipality. Her job, as a creditor, was office-bound and therefore did not qualify. It was illegal for the municipality to backdate her car allowance to 2006”.
Nomvuzo was paid a minimum monthly allowance of R3 600 from February 2006 to September 2007, amounting to R72 000. Following a promotion, Nomvuzo qualified for a car allowance in October 2007, although it was a lower amount than those of others in management positions.
Mogale City spokesman Nkosana Zali, despite being confronted with documented proof, denied that the six were paid backdated car allowances.
Instead Zali said: “The six officials were afforded travelling allowances relevant to all officials of the same level in line with the practices, policies and procedures of the municipality. Anything else would have been unfair labour practice.”
He said the allowances were based on an allocation of 650km a month per official.
But, in an apparent contradiction, Zali said: “We reject the insinuation that the acting municipal manager acted recklessly and without due consideration of matters before her. The acting municipal manager made her sentiments relating to the retrospective payment quite clear. What was approved was the adjustment of the allowance to create certainty of parity.”
Makhafola has since left Mogale City and taken up a position of chief financial officer in the department of Local Government and Housing under Mmemezi. Van Niekerk still works for the council.
Meanwhile, the ANC in Gauteng has rejected The Star’s reports that Mmemezi would be fired before the end of the month.
ANC spokesman Dumisa Ntuli said: “The article is mendacious, malicious, unsubstantiated and far from the truth.
“The ANC integrity committee is currently investigating all allegations on the use of the official credit card and vehicle, and will make its recommendations to the provincial executive committee in order to determine the course of action.”
He said the Mmemezi issue was still under investigation. Ntuli said The Star should wait for the outcome of its Integrity Committee report. The Star understands that Mmemezi submitted a report to Mokonyane in which he allegedly acknowledged “making the irregular purchases from his credit card”.
Insiders said Mmemezi “found nothing wrong in his actions, and that prompted the premier to want to act against him. He showed absolutely no remorse”.
Ntuli refused to comment on Mmemezi’s alleged admission of his actions to the premier. Mmemezi, according to The Star’s sources, admitted that he used his state credit card to buy the R10 000 painting at a McDonald’s restaurant in Silverton, Pretoria.
He also admitted that he used his credit card on various overnight stays in hotels and lodges around Gauteng.
Mmemezi has now threatened to sue any and all of the parties, including The Star, that he believes have helped to form the “smear campaign” set against him. He declined to say who might be involved in such a campaign, or what their motive could be.