Public Protector Adv. Busisiwe Mkhwebane. File Picture: Bongani Shilubane.
Public Protector Adv. Busisiwe Mkhwebane. File Picture: Bongani Shilubane.

Public Protector calls for the heads of 'negligent' officials in Msunduzi council to roll

By Thami Magubane Time of article published Oct 12, 2021

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DURBAN - OFFICIALS from the Msunduzi Municipality could face disciplinary action after an investigation by the public protector (PP) found that they were “negligent” in their duties, and had failed to ensure that the municipality was only billed for services that had been provided.

The PP’s investigation looked into the procurement of goods and services for community meetings, held between February and November 2017 in Copesville, Pietermaritzburg.

The report titled, “Allegations of improper conduct and maladministration by the Msunduzi Local Municipality in relation to the procurement of goods and services”, was released last week.

It found that officials had failed to ensure that the municipality paid only for goods and services that had been provided.

There had also been serious discrepancies and misrepresentation of facts during the procurement process, the report said.

The investigation found that officials signed off to confirm that procurement processes had gone according to plan, when in fact there were glaring disparities between what was procured and what had been delivered.

The report called on the council to investigate the officials involved and institute disciplinary processes where necessary.

The PP’s investigation was triggered by a complaint by Thabiso Zulu, a close friend of slain ANC Youth League secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa, to the office of the public protector in 2017.

He alleged that there were instances where the municipality had wanted to procure goods or services, these were not supplied but suppliers submitted invoices and were paid.

The report shows that the procurement was for items that included chairs, marquees, a stage and a public address (PA) system. The total value of the items was close to R115 000.

The public protector found that there were discrepancies between the invoices sent by the suppliers and the records kept by the municipality.

In one instance, for a public meeting that took place on February 26, the municipality procured 300 chairs and a PA system with roving microphones from a service provider at a cost of R10 000.

The invoice furnished by the service provider confirmed these items were hired. However, the Service Entry sheet delivery verification document generated by the municipality listed a marquee as also being among the items procured.

In another instance, invoices from a service provider indicated that they had leased a stage for a community meeting but the municipal document showed that the municipality had only recorded that a PA system with microphones had been hired.

The reports stated that on July 19 and 20, 2017, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) hosted a workshop in Copesville at the community hall, and the organisers did not request any assistance from the municipality.

The SAHRC confirmed to the PP in writing that the organisation had made use of its own PA system “with no cost implications”.

But, says the report, a service provider submitted an invoice for a marquee, tables, chairs and a PA system procured at a cost of R3 200 for a public meeting held at Copesville community hall on July 20, 2017.

It said the office of the speaker verified these orders as correct.

The report directs the office of the speaker to take the appropriate steps to ensure an investigation into financial misconduct by the municipal officials that were responsible for the procurement of the goods and services referred to in the report.

“And if the investigation warrants such steps, institute disciplinary proceedings within 60 days from the date of this report,” it said.

Msunduzi mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla said he was unaware of the report.

“We will look into it and only then we will be able to comment.”

THE MERCURY

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