eThekwini Municipality’s Embassy Building offices were broken into, resulting in the alleged theft of sensitive municipal documents.
The burglary incident, which took place about three weeks ago, has raised fears that its aim was to undermine a multimillion-rand “fraud investigation” that is currently under way.
“The Mercury” understands that the City’s human settlements offices, located at the Embassy Building in the Durban CBD, were broken into and documents were stolen.
The Human Settlements unit is under intense scrutiny. The City revealed in October that it had suspended several officials in connection with an “irregular transfer” of funds meant for housing projects. The funds were estimated at R17 million.
This “irregular transfer” led to a delay in the completion of a housing project as additional funds to complete the work needed to be sourced. Asked to comment about the break-in, the municipality directed “The Mercury” to the police.
A City official, who has been briefed on the break-in and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the burglary had occurred as the investigation seemed to be heating up.
It is clear that someone wanted the documents relating to the transactions about the matter, removed, the official said.
“Targeting those documents is a waste of time because I suspect if the (authorities) are investigating, they already have them, and furthermore any transfers that occurred would have occurred through a bank and as such the banks would have records of those payments,” said the official.
“You need to understand that the people who have been placed on suspension in connection with this are fall guys, the real players are still in the municipality,” said the source.
The source said the investigation into the transfer was a threat to many officials.
“Imagine that some of the people implicated are trainees, that is impossible. Trainees are some of the most diligent people you will find because they are still looking to be hired permanently. Someone who perpetrated this would be someone with deep knowledge of the system.
“Some of the senior guys implicated in this are now claiming that their signatures had been forged. It’s only someone who knows the manager’s signature intimately who can forge it.
“There are two types of signatures, electronic and manual so if the manager claims that they did not sign off on the matter, it only means the people who work closely with that manager forged it,” said the official.
Another official in the municipality confirmed the break-in. “This happened during the lull of the festive season, there were not many people in the office.”
Another official also confirmed the break-in said “yes, they broke in and stole documents.”
Chairperson of the human settlements and infrastructure services committee Themba Mvubu, of the EFF, said he had been briefed on the break-in.
“Yes, the incident happened and was reported to the police, but currently nothing noticeable was taken. If they wanted tender documents, they were misinformed. Deputy heads don’t keep tender documents in their offices.”
IFP councillor Mdu Nkosi said it appeared to be an inside job. “It is quite clear that this was an inside job and someone is trying to hide the shenanigans they were up to. This makes it clear that even that transfer of money was no mistake, it was deliberate.
“Officials have been doing this for a long time,” said Nkosi.
DA councillor Thabani Mthethwa said, “we have not been made aware of this. Again, we reiterate our call that there’s clearly a criminal syndicate operating in this municipality, from stealing materials in the electricity depot to this and other things. It is incumbent upon the city manager to conduct a thorough investigation and root out this rot.”
ActionSA councillor Zwakele Mncwango said: “I was never alerted but I am not surprised because this department is clouded by corruption. We hope the SAPS will do an investigation and those behind it get arrested.”
Asked about the break-in, municipal spokesperson Gugu Sisilana referred “The Mercury” to the police.
“The South African Police is the relevant authority to enquire about criminal incidents, including burglaries, and criminal investigations of any nature.
“The municipality does not have the mandate to investigate criminal cases and cannot comment on cases outside of its mandate. With regards to investigations conducted by the Hawks, please liaise directly with the Hawks.”