Screengrab of the VBS Mutual Bank website

Johannesburg - The DA in Gauteng has accused the West Rand district municipality of hiding a forensic report into more than R80million invested with VBS Mutual Bank.

DA member of the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) Ina Cilliers made the claim after the municipality denied her access to the forensic report following her party’s formal request through the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) on May 31.

The municipality, through its deputy information officer Rethabiseng Mokebe, said it was not in a position to accede to the request. The municipality had made the refusal in terms of Section 33 of the PAIA, which obliged the municipality to protect the privacy of third parties in terms of Section 34 (1) of the Act.

“You are hereby informed that you may lodge an internal appeal or an application with a court, as the case may be, against the decision of the West Rand district municipality not to make a record available to you within three days of the receipt of this letter.

“An internal appeal may be lodged with the executive mayor of the municipality notice of an internal appeal must substantially correspond with regulations of the Act,” Mokebe added.

Cilliers, who was outraged by the response, said her party was going to appeal against the municipal decision which cited the Protection of Personal Information Act to deny them access to the forensic report.

“While the DA is cognisant of the significant role the Act plays in safeguarding the personal information of individuals, we are of the belief that this Act is being abused and used as an escape route to avoid responsibility by those who looted through the illegal investments with VBS Bank,” Cilliers said.

She said members of the Gauteng provincial legislature served a vital role in ensuring that public funds were not abused and that the people of Gauteng received value for money.

“Should the appeal be dismissed, we will seek legal counsel on the matter and act accordingly. It cannot be that good laws are used to cover up bad deeds.

“The DA will continue to ensure that government is held to account and those who wrongfully benefit from dipping into the public purse are brought to book,” Cilliers said.

Newly-elected Mayor Diteko Moreotsenye dismissed the DA’s accusation saying the contents of the forensic report were made public, including to DA councillors.

“We are now implementing the recommendations of the forensic report,” he added.

Moreotsenye, however, refused to divulge the contents of the report.

Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu has already revealed that municipalities which invested about R1.7billion with VBS Mutual Bank were not likely to recover their funds, saying it would affect their service delivery budgets.

Limpopo municipalities invested R1.2bn, North West municipalities R316.1million and Gauteng’s municipalities R126m.

Makwetu said two Gauteng municipalities - Merafong local municipality and the West Rand district council - had investments worth a total of R126m at VBS Mutual Bank in contravention of the Municipal Investment Regulations, of which the “recoverability is unlikely”.

“The financial losses arising from these investments did not have an impact on service delivery for the current period as the funds were earmarked for long-term capital projects.

“However, this may have an impact on multi-year projects in the next financial period if these funds are not catered for in the upcoming budget adjustment,” Makwetu added.

Political Bureau