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Durban - It’s business as usual for eThekwini’s deputy head of supply chain management Zandile Sithole, who returned to work in March following her 18-month suspension for alleged graft.

Meanwhile, the 13 companies that were supposed to be blacklisted from doing any further work with the city, because they were implicated along with Sithole, continue to receive contracts and payments.

There is also no word on the progress of her mandatory disciplinary hearing, which was supposed to start in March 2018, and was based on a detailed forensic report that implicated her in fraud, money laundering and corruption.

City manager Sipho Nzuza was unable to explain why Sithole’s disciplinary hearing had not proceeded.

The 2016 forensic report revealed how Sithole had allegedly colluded with 13 companies to defraud the municipality. Two of the companies allegedly belong to members of her family.

Other officials within the municipality were also implicated in a chain of irregularities, including the forging of signatures, tampering with documents, authoring bogus reports, suppressing information and manipulating procedures.

In September 2017, Sithole was suspended pending an internal inquiry.

An internal investigation completed by the city’s internal investigations unit in October by the city’s internal investigation unit instructed senior officials that the 13 implicated companies should be blacklisted, but letters of appointment signed by Nzuza, and payment records from the municipality show that the companies continued to receive contracts up till this month.

Among the blacklisted companies is Zikhulise Cleaning and Maintenance. In May 2016, the city’s internal integrity and investigations department began compiling a report on fraudulent contracts awarded to Zikhulise, in particular a housing project worth over R400 million.

A letter from Sars, issued in June 2016, warned the municipality that it was unlawful to continue awarding contracts to Zikhulise as it was a tax delinquent. According to documents seen by the Sunday Tribune, the company has continued receiving payments up until last month.

Two other blacklisted companies, Kubani Co-op and Durban South Events Management, have also continued receiving contracts and payments.

There is apparently evidence that payments to these companies had been deleted from the city’s books in order to deceive auditors.

Sithole’s initial disciplinary hearing a year ago was disrupted by members of the Federation for Radical Economic Transformation, an umbrella grouping of “businessmen” who were notorious for invading construction sites and shutting them down in order to extort work from the contractors.

Nzuza did not respond to a request for information about the progress of Sithole’s current disciplinary process.

Sunday Tribune