R136m scandal divides Samwu
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Johannesburg - The controversial “consultant” at the centre of the financial scandal dogging the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) could be in police custody on Monday, as authorities probe the disappearance of R136 million from union coffers.
The Sunday Independent understands Samuel Phaswane, a consultant who was allegedly appointed to manage Samwu’s finances, has been ordered to present himself to police with a lawyer, by no later than Monday.
Phaswane’s consultancy, Mpamba Solutions, allegedly manages Samwu’s finances at a cost of about R400 000 a month.
The order that he appear before the police has led to speculation from sectors of the embattled union that his arrest could be imminent.
Samwu, the country’s biggest municipal workers union, has been rent down the middle, with a group calling itself Save Our Samwu (SOS) demanding the top leadership be investigated for R136m which it says is unaccounted for.
SOS charges that:
* R80.7m is missing from the union’s reserve funds.
* R28m was mysteriously transferred from the union’s reserve account for admin expenses that were already budgeted for.
* A photocopy contract was awarded to a company, costing R6.4m – despite a contradictory recommendation by the union’s finance committee.
* Samwu national officials have exceeded the budget for upgrades to the union’s Joburg premises by R19m, without explaining why or how this was authorised.
* Millions have been paid to the consulting firm that Phaswane works for, Mpamba Solutions, which even allegedly authorises payments from the union to its own account.
Samwu’s national leadership has meanwhile refused to comment on the allegations this week, arguing that SOS was determined to “trash the union”.
And while National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Nathi Mncube, previously confirmed the Hawks’ Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit was investigating the missing millions, SOS members now believe arrests are imminent. About 40 union leaders and staff have been dismissed, expelled or suspended for questioning the national leadership about the unauthorised spending.
Samwu deputy general secretary Moses Miya said a central executive committee (CEC) meeting held on Friday this week had gone “very well”.
Disgruntled Samwu members, however, said the meeting was “secretly” convened and was also “unconstitutional” because at least four provinces – which claim to represent 72 percent of union’s members – had boycotted it.
The CEC was due to consider a report on the union’s finances authored by an internal task team that is loyal to the very national office bearers that SOS wants investigated. Angry members of the SOS grouping claim the task team report will be a whitewash, instead demanding that an independent forensic audit of Samwu’s finances be allowed.
SOS and other union leaders and members have repeatedly called for a forensic audit to ascertain the true state of the union’s finances. They are also calling for the suspension of the union’s national office bearers (NOBs), who they say have deliberately divided the union.
They charge that the unprocedurally expelled and dismissed worker leaders represent over 72 percent of the membership, while the remaining 28 percent of leaders have been silent on Samwu’s financial irregularities.
“They claim to be supporting the NOBs and have swallowed the lies about suspended and dismissed leaders forming a rival union,” members of Samwu wrote to Cosatu in June. The memorandum given to Vavi also claims Samwu’s NOBs no longer represent the majority of the membership.