Durban City Hall Picture: Terry Haywood
Durban City Hall Picture: Terry Haywood

DSW tender fraud accused returns to work in new position

By Desiree Erasmus Time of article published Sep 25, 2020

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Durban - A SENIOR eThekwini Municipality official facing charges of fraud and corruption in the R430million Durban Solid Waste (DSW) tender racket that contributed to the axing of former mayor Zandile Gumede is returning to work in a new position to circumvent the conditions of his bail.

The Mercury has seen official correspondence in which it was confirmed that the city’s former deputy head of supply chain management, Sandile Ngcobo, would return to the metro but would now be based in disaster management.

Ngcobo was also the former head of the city’s bid adjudication committee (BAC), and allegedly used the position to award tenders to the clutch of service providers charged in that case, and another.

He has denied any wrongdoing.

Ngcobo’s return comes in the wake of mayor Mxolisi Kaunda last week celebrating one year in office.

Kaunda spoke tough on “consequence management” for allegedly corrupt officials, councillors and service providers.

The decision to return Ngcobo to work was made after he met with acting city manager Sipho Cele last week, according to the official correspondence.

“The special leave ends on the 30th of this month,” said Cele when contacted by The Mercury, adding that Ngcobo would be officially returning to work on October 1.

Asked about Ngcobo being brought back into the fold while facing serious criminal charges, Cele responded: “He is going to come back into the organisation for him to go through an internal disciplinary process.”

Cele said he did not know why the disciplinary had not already taken place.

Former city manager Sipho Nzuza is also facing charges in the same case but is believed to be on “negotiated leave” with a full salary.

“Since I have taken over as city manager, I have then taken it upon myself to fast-track the process,” said Cele

He said Ngcobo’s disciplinary was currently “being formulated and the charges will be proffered to him when he comes back on October 1”.

Cele would not say who would be handling the disciplinary. “Why would you want that information?” he said. “If I publish that in the papers, then it is messing up my case.”

Ngcobo, his wife, Vuyiswa, and the directors of three implicated companies appeared in court in January this year on additional fraud and corruption charges also related to his time as chairperson of the BAC.

Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said at the time of the arrests that the service providers allegedly bought a R1m Jaguar for Vuyiswa Ngcobo in exchange for being awarded contracts by her husband. Vuyiswa is also a former city employee. Both are currently out on bail.

The DA caucus leader in eThekwini, Nicole Graham said she had confirmed that Ngcobo would be on a pay scale of between R1.5m and R1.9m a year upon his return.

It was Graham who first made it known on Wednesday that Ngcobo would be returning to work, although she claimed he had already started in his new position on Monday.

Graham said that the acting city manager personally negotiating the terms of Ngcobo’s return smacked of “irregularity”. “That you (Ngcobo) can be out on bail, accused of something so serious, and the municipal reports - the investigative reports - can so clearly indicate wrongdoing on your behalf, and then you get to negotiate your return and the conditions of your return, with the city manager (seems) irregular.”

She said the city appeared to be following the same formula with Ngcobo as it did with another official charged for his alleged role in the R430m tender case, Robert Abbu, in order to circumnavigate the conditions of his bail.

The bail conditions for Ngcobo and Abbu in the R430m DSW case include not returning to their places of employment, with the addresses listed as DSW for Abbu and Supply Chain Management for Ngcobo.

Abbu was the DSW deputy head for strategic and new developments when he was arrested and charged. He was also allowed to return to work but was shifted to the electricity unit.

According to Graham, Abbu retired on August 31.

When The Mercury asked the acting city manager if Abbu had faced a disciplinary process, he said: “That is to follow he is unwell at this stage.”

When asked to clarify if Abbu had retired, Cele said: “I am not aware of his retirement date, but that was going to come his way.”

Asked pointedly if Abbu was still in the employ of the city, Cele said: “That is going to be the next case that I am handling. If you are saying that he has retired, thank you for the information.

“I don’t manage on a micro basis; I manage at a broader level. Because this is a big case, with public interest, I would have then taken (Abbu’s disciplinary) as the next matter.”

Abbu could not be reached by publication to clarify his status. The Mercury was also unable to reach Ngcobo.

The Mercury

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