HOT SEAT: Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba
Johannesburg - Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba has been implicated in a conflict of interest scandal that could cost the city R11 million in ratepayers’ money.

The ANC claims Mashaba “personally wanted” a non-profit organisation (NPO) with close ties to him to be illegally awarded R11m, to be paid over three years.

Mashaba has dismissed the allegations as ANC attempts to use dirty political tactics to taint his administration.

“We observe that the ANC offer no evidence to back their claim of undue influence, relying on insinuation and political conjecture,” said Mashaba.

The ANC on Tuesday accused Mashaba of initiating funding of the Field Band Foundation (FBF), an NPO of which he was chairperson for 16 years, without receiving any proposal.

FBF chairperson Brian Gibson on Tuesday also confirmed that Mashaba had introduced the NPO to the city’s Social Development Department. 

However, he was adamant that Mashaba then stepped aside “so that the prospective partnership could be explored and finalised on its merits and free of any undue pressure or influence”. 

He said the organisation had previously had similar partnerships with three other metros.

“The foundation management team has walked a long road to demonstrate to the City of Joburg’s Department of Social Development that we are well equipped to deliver on their objective of combating drug and alcohol abuse among the youth in all geographical re- gions of the city,” said Gibson.

The ANC insists Mashaba initiated funding for the FBF without any written proposal sent to the city by the foundation. FBF received the grant to roll out an anti-drugs abuse awareness campaign over three years.

A source close to the developments described how Mashaba introduced the matter to his mayoral committee last month and convinced them to support the decision, even though there was “clear conflict of interest”.

He alleged that dismissed former finance MMC Rabelani Dagada was sidelined from leading the process, despite being the metro’s political head of expenditure.

“A proposal was sent to him, and MMCs agreed in principle with the mayor. That was what he wanted.

“The budget of the city is the budget of the mayor, almost. Executive mayors are very powerful when it comes to the budget,” a senior official in the council said, requesting not to be named.

He alleged that Dagada’s issue with the project was that the metro did not have a policy on donations and grants.

“According to the treasury regulations and guidelines, if there are any intentions to make any donations, there must be a policy approved by the council.

Dagada had already drafted a policy,” he said. “If we had that policy, we wouldn’t have this story.”

“Once we had agreed in principle, as MMCs, that this grant would be made, the budgeting process had to start. The only way we could release the money was through budget adjustment, done in the middle of the financial year,” he added.

This process, the source said, was usually chaired by the MMC for finance, “but for some reason, Dagada was excluded, and the mayor himself chaired the meeting. What was strange is that Dagada was not even invited to the meetings. Some of the decisions were taken in his absence,” he noted.

The mayoral committee, he said, had known that Mashaba had chaired the FBF and was “very passionate about it”, but was not questioned as “this was what he wanted”.

Dagada on Tuesday confirmed that the mayoral committee had in February approved the funding of the FBF but said he was unable to comment on the matter as he was no longer an MMC.

Mashaba’s office was sent a list of follow-up questions but had not responded at the time of publication. However, in an earlier statement, the mayor defended the decision and accused the ANC of using dirty political tactics to taint his administration.

“These tactics by the ANC must be viewed as an effort to disrupt the work of our government and the efforts to deliver change to the residents of our city. They should be viewed and responded to with contempt,” said Mashaba.

He denied allegations that social development had not requested a proposal from the FBF. “Through the powers afforded to MMCs, a grant was approved and tabled in the mayoral committee. It was done in the open in forums involving many city officials. It was formally recorded in a report to the mayoral committee - hardly the efforts of a government seeking to hide something,” said Mashaba.

“I derive no benefit from the city supporting the FBF, and I have derived no benefit from the NGO over the many years of my support for it,” he assured.

The ANC in Joburg said it would not “sit idle when mayor Mashaba uses his position to coerce MMCs and staff to take decisions to fund a pet project he has been associated with for over 16 years”.

They had since requested the public protector to look into the matter. They would also ask the council to refer Mashaba to the ethics committee.

“The FBF is a well-established NPO with support from the private sector, and boasts a budget of R22 million per annum, yet Mashaba has the audacity to initiate funding of over R11m from the ratepayers’ money,” the ANC in Joburg said in a statement.

The Star