eThekwini’s internal investigations backlog irks opposition
Durban - THE eThekwini Municipality has come under fire from opposition parties for its failure to finalise several investigations related to internal financial irregularities.
Opposition parties are furious about what they call a deliberate lack of transparency around the city’s internal investigations processes.
Some 50% of the 333 cases being probed by the City Integrity and Investigations Unit (CIIU), involving the supply chain system, dates back two to seven years.
Municipal spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said a little over half of all the cases had been finalised. He declined to give details on any action taken against officials fingered for wrongdoing.
Mayoral spokesperson Mluleki Mntungwa said Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda was unable to comment on the backlogs which, he said, were already in place when he took over in September last year.
“When the mayor was deployed, 333 cases were identified. The mayor is not in a position to comment on matters that happened during the previous administration,” he said.
Mayisela also referred to the present situation, saying, in some cases, challenges included witnesses not being willing or available to assist with the investigations.
In others, he said, there were irregular postponements of hearings for lengthy periods, which led to the city manager issuing a directive to employees, which said that only the presiding officer in a disciplinary hearing could authorise a postponement.
Mayisela said a multifaceted special task team had been appointed to resolve the backlog and put measures in place to prevent a repeat.
“To date, out of 333 matters, 191 have been completed. Due to the lockdown, there were no disciplinary hearings during March and June 2020. We are determined to finalise the pending cases,” he said.
Asked for details on the actual cases and corrective action taken, he said: “The report you are asking for is an internal document, and we may not share it with you. This (the generic figures given) is enough,” Mayisela said.
Mntungwa said the cases related to fraud and corruption, city officials doing business with the city (against the provisions of the Municipal Finance Management Act), and maladministration, among others.
He said there were many cases involving supply chain management processes.
DA caucus leader Nicole Graham said the opposition was unhappy that the process to track CIIU cases lacked transparency.
“Again, we are simply presented with endless numbers. We are told cases are coming down, but what is this actually resulting in?” she asked. “If the numbers are coming down, that’s a good thing. But what does it actually mean? Are people getting fired, are they arrested, is money being returned to the municipality? We don’t know. The public doesn’t know.
“All you get is a little table, with numbers. We have said make (the reports) clear with dates, who is the person responsible, so that a member of the public (for example) can track what has happened. But we don’t know, because they have created a completely closed system.”
Graham said each time the DA had tried to make the system open for scrutiny, the ANC had refused.
IFP caucus leader Mdu Nkosi singled out the mayor for blame.
“Since the mayor came in, all he does is make empty promises, but there is no action or results in resolving the cases, which can be pointed out to the public.
“We are worried that the (ANC) is not transparent to the public, to spell out the details of the cases and its outcomes,” Nkosi said.
“Even the Christmas luncheon for the elderly, for example, had not happened over a two-year period. They keep on pointing to SCM challenges,” he said.