06/10/2013. A supervisor from the waste division and one of his employees were arrested for selling council refuse bags. Picture: Masi Losi

Pretoria - Corruption, no matter how small, will not be tolerated in the City of Tshwane. The metro police issued this warning on Wednesday after two municipal workers were arrested while selling municipal refuse bags to a Sunnyside businessman for a mere R200. They now stand to lose their jobs.

Inspector AJ Lawrance and Sergeant Nicoleen Fourie of the Tshwane Metro Police Department’s anti-corruption unit cornered a supervisor and his subordinate moments after they had sold five packs of 50 refuse bags each for R40 a pack.

A list of dialled and received numbers on the pair’s cellphones showed they had been in conversation the entire morning before meeting their client, seemingly plotting their “pay day”. Police seized the money, the bags and two cellphones.

In an affidavit, the businessman said he contacted police, who had alerted him about the refuse bag sellers, after the two men phoned him promising to deliver them.

“They told me where I should go to meet them. When I reached the spot, a man jumped into my car. He threw the bags on the back seat and asked for the money. I gave him R200. He took the money and got out.”

At that moment the police officers pounced, arresting the junior employee first, who declared he was not going down alone. His supervisor was nabbed moments later.

The employee told police his supervisor put the bags in the locker room for him to collect and deliver to the client. The two were to meet later to share the money.

Metro police spokesman Superintendent Isaac Mahamba said the city’s law enforcement division had zero tolerance towards corruption. “The stakes are even higher where the perpetrator is a municipal official as action would include internal disciplinary measures.”

The men will appear in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.

The municipality could not confirm the amount of money it was losing every year through corrupt activities. However, city spokesman Blessing Manale said the stolen and resold bags cost about R45 for a pack of 20 strengthened bags used for general waste and garden refuse.

“We cannot confirm the specific losses from the specific thefts, but other expenses relate to the clean-up cost of refuse dropped in public bins without bags, investigations, disrupted services, health and hygiene-related impacts, and payment of personnel on suspension for related cases,” he added.

The incident came after the city had taken a strong stand against corruption and fraud by launching a dedicated hotline and jacking up its whistle-blowing policy.

Mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa praised the sterling work by the metro police officers for the swift arrest, and urged residents to use the city’s anti-corruption hotline to report any suspicious, illegal and unauthorised sale or theft of municipal property or services. “We believe the actions of the metro police will encourage citizens and the public to whistle-blow on corrupt officials and those who collaborate with them,” Ramokgopa said.

A report by Corruption Watch shows complaints in its database about corruption in municipalities made up 212 of the almost 800 local government tip-offs to date.

In his 2011/12 report, Auditor-General Terrence Nombembe named corruption as a problem hindering service delivery in municipalities. The most common types of corruption include bribery by officials, including metro cops; abuse of power or influence by councillors; nepotism and misuse of municipal resources such as vehicles and facilities.

In October, a municipal official was arrested for the alleged theft of copper cable valued at R1.4 million.

Days earlier, several employees in the horticulture department had been dismissed for fuel theft, and a metro police employee was axed for tampering with traffic fines.

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