EFF leader rubbishes fraud claims
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Kimberley - Provincial EFF leader Aubrey Baartman has dismissed allegations of fraud and corruption against him during his tenure as municipal mayor of the Nama Khoi Municipality, as being nothing more than a smear campaign.
The MEC for Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs, Alvin Botes, on Wednesday announced that they would be instituting criminal action against municipal officials implicated in financial misconduct during the 2011/12 financial year, when the Nama Khoi Municipality was under the control of a DA/Cope coalition.
The forensic audit that was conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers was released in 2014 and examines several housing projects as well as the R8 million water reticulation upgrade project, the R6 million Nama Khoi stormwater facility, the 7de Laan sewer system and the R3.9 million Steinkopf sporting complex upgrade.
Out of a R23 million municipal infrastructure grant from national treasury, the auditors were able to confirm payments made to 27 services providers to the amount of R9.6 million.
Payments to service providers to the value of R1.6 million could not be identified and a number of supporting documents and cheque payments for 16 invoices, amounting to R503 085.88, could not be found.
The report recommended that payment of R776 957.23, which was authorised by Baartman, to RE Constructio * for the construction of houses in Okiep and Matjieskloof, be reported to the Directorate of Priority Crimes for investigation.
It was not clear whether Baartman was an active member or director of any of the associated companies at the time of payment.
Baartman denied receiving any payment from the municipality.
“I was never involved with any company or service provider that received a tender from Nama Khoi Municipality. I am not afraid of going to court because I have nothing to hide. Botes must prove these wild allegations against me because I am not even mentioned in the forensic report,” said Baartman.
He questioned why the report was only being released two years later, shortly before the local government elections.
“The ANC is feeling threatened by the EFF. It is all lies, I am being blamed for the misappropriation of funds, while in fact it was ANC officials who committed the offences. I was municipal manager of Nama Khoi in my capacity as an ANC member from 2007 to 2008 and later municipal manager of the DA/Cope-led council from 2009 to 2011.”
Botes pointed out that the investigation was not politically motivated, as they had also conducted forensic audits at Ubuntu, Magareng, Dikgatlong and Karoo Hoogland municipalities.
“Government is not involved in campaigning. There is a perception that ANC-led municipalities are corrupt, while it (corruption) is a social ill without any colour or banner.
“Neither the ANC or opposition-led municipalities will be exempt from punitive action if they are guilty of the theft of public funds.
“We are also investigating the Ga-Segonyana municipal manager for not having the necessary qualifications. We are guided by the department’s legal advisor, Frank Mashilo.”
As the former Sol Plaatje municipal manager, Mashilo is facing fraud and corruption charges in the Wataka trial, in connection with water purifiers that were purchased from Intaka Holdings but were never installed in Ritchie.
Botes added that apart from laying criminal charges with the Hawks, they would also institute civil claims in an attempt to recover state funds pocketed by government officials.
“Once money is recovered, we will unblock these projects and allocate appropriate budgets to complete the construction of houses and improve municipal infrastructure. We cannot allow beneficiaries to suffer.”
Botes stated that the municipality was unable to provide the necessary supporting documents for expenditure on municipal infrastructure developments or identify details of payments for transactions amounting to R11 million.
“Nine service providers were paid R4.2 million from the call account. The report identifies transfers of R13.3 million without supporting documents.”
He indicated that the department paid the municipality R21.2 million between 2011 to 2012, while supporting documents for the Vioolsdrift an Rooiwal housing projects were not provided.
“The report identifies payments of R6.1 million to service providers from the call account. Supporting documents were not presented for R7.2 million transfers out of the call account.”
Botes said procurement and supply chain processes were not followed.
“The forensic investigation and the subsequent report on Nama Khoi is action taken to root out corruption. The investigation was necessitated by the Auditor-General’s management report.”
ANC provincial secretary Zamani Saul believed that the forensic report proved that government was serious about rooting out corruption.
He stated that the report exposed the DA/Cope coalition for parading themselves as being champions of anti-corruption while they were unable to clamp down on corruption amongst their own ranks.
“The Department of Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs must hold persons implicated in the report accountable by urgently handing the matter over to the relevant law enforcement agencies.”
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