Public Protector finds WC Premier and MEC in breach of the executive ethics code
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THE Secretary-General for political party GOOD, Brett Herron – who laid complaints with the public protector over issues at the Oudtshoorn local municipality – said the damning findings in advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s latest report was “cold comfort” to the majority of residents in the area.
Mkhwebane’s scathing report, released in Pretoria on Friday, found Western Cape Premier Alan Winde and the provincial MEC for local government, environmental affairs and development planning Anton Bredell were in breach of the executive ethics code.
The report responded to Herron’s complaints laid last June over Winde and Bredell’s conduct and handling of issues at the municipality.
DA leader John Steenhuisen on Saturday took to Twitter and said: “The DA took over Oudtshoorn Municipality and has made great strides in its financial recovery over the past five years. We have stopped wasteful expenditure.”
In a statement released on yesterday, Herron said it would be more comforting to know that the people who were charged with improving their lives were ethical and had integrity
“It is cold comfort to people who are hungry, who live in circumstances not fit for human habitation, to hear that wasteful expenditure has been cut in the town,” Herron said.
He called on Steenhuisen to “show some leadership and instruct Winde to get rid of Bredell”.
In his complaint, Herron alleged that the former Executive Mayor of the Oudtshoorn local municipality, Colan Sylvester, alerted the MEC to several allegations of maladministration, fraud, corruption and financial misconduct on the part of the municipality, and requested his assistance to attend to these matters.
Sylvester could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Herron said Sylvester raised the matter in March of 2019 and asked for assistance. However, Bredell only responded to the former mayor’s letter 10 months later on January 22 last year.
Herron alleged that Bredell addressed the municipality’s DA councillors on December 12, 2019, and proposed that they should agree that the Western Cape provincial government place the municipality “under administration”.
The report stated that it was clear from the comments made at this meeting that the MEC’s intention was to achieve political advantage for the DA, instead of acting in accordance with the constitutional imperative of assisting the municipality as the MEC responsible for local government in the Western Cape province.
Mkhwebane found Bredell’s conduct was improper and constituted a direct conflict between his official responsibilities as the MEC responsible for local government and his private interests as the Western Cape provincial chairperson of the DA at the time.
“We found that, indeed, MEC Bredell failed to take timeous appropriate action in connection with allegations of improper conduct against officials of the municipality when he was requested to do so.
“His first formal response to the serious allegations of misconduct and impropriety at the municipality 10 months after having received the letter of 11 March 2019 from a person in the position of the executive manager does not indicate diligence and promptness on his part.”
Mkhwebane found that Bredell did not act in “good faith and in the best interest of good governance” at the municipality.
“His conduct was also inconsistent with his office as MEC responsible for local government,” the report read.
In addition, Sylvester wrote a letter to Winde in connection with the conduct of Bredell on March last year. Herron stated that Winde was obligated to "conduct an enquiry in terms of section 2.2 of the Executive Ethics Code, taking into account the promotion of an open, democratic and accountable government".
Winde then appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs in June 2020, during which, he was referred by a Member of Parliament to the MEC’s proposals to the DA councillors of the municipality that they agree that the municipality is placed under administration.
“The premier expressed the view that it is perfectly legal to have a political agreement to place a municipality under administration.
“The premier’s response to the portfolio committee is indicative of the fact that he was aware of the proposal made by the MEC on December 12, 2019, to the DA Councillors. His statements were therefore not in the best interest of good governance and not consistent with what is expected of a person in the position of a premier,” the report found.
However, Mkhwebane said some of the allegations against Winde were not substantiated.
"We found the allegation that the premier failed to act on the allegations against the MEC, contained in the letter addressed to him by the former executive mayor of the municipality, was not substantiated.
“The truth of the matter is that Premier Winde requested and obtained a comprehensive response from MEC Bredell on the allegations and decided that there was no reasonable basis for further action by his office.”
Mkhwebane recommended that to remedy the breach of the Executive Ethics Code, President Cyril Ramaphosa must in terms of the Executive Members Ethics Act submit a copy of this report and any comments to the National Council of Provinces not later than 14 days after receiving the report.