eThekwini municipality’s head of water and sanitation, Neil Macleod, should answer to a prima facie case of bribery and corruption.

This is the finding of a city investigation that has been rejected by McLeod and his boss, city manager S’bu Sithole.

A report from the city ombudsman’s office, which was leaked to the Sunday Tribune last week, calls for Macleod to be criminally charged amid allegations that he was involved in tender scams, bribery and corruption over a payment for his wife’s British visa, as well as a string of other illegal activities.

But Macleod described these allegations as part of a “dirty tricks” campaign to have him removed from office because he had uncovered fraud and corruption amounting to R25m in his department.

In his findings, Acting Ombudsman and Head of Investigations Nhlanhla Mthethwa accused Macleod of failing to report fraudulent and corrupt activities, saying he had also accepted a bribe.

“Neil has failed to perform the function of his office in good faith, diligently, honestly and in a transparent manner, and a criminal case of corruption against Neil should be reported to the SAPS,” he said.

Macleod vehemently denied all the allegations, claiming they were as a result of him exposing fraud and corruption in his department.

“The claims against me are rubbish and without foundation at all. The truth of the matter is that I have terminated a number of contracts due to non-delivery of services and discovered a scam where certain senior staff in my office were conducting a sophisticated operation where they set up bogus companies or firms that were being paid for services that were never carried out.

“I suspended a number of officials in my office and we have instituted criminal proceedings against several of them to recover the loss to the city, which runs into millions of rand as a result of their fraud.”

“To deflect attention from their matter and angry at losing their financial kickbacks, they’ve trumped up charges and allegations against me to try and get me out of office so that they can come back and continue their scam,” said Macleod.

He confirmed that 19 contractors who had been doing business with his department were under investigation for fraud and corruption and nearly all were linked to employees within his unit.

“For corruption to take place there has to be collusion from the inside and in some cases this collusion has been going on for three years, where we’ve lost more than R25 million in the process because it’s very difficult to pick up when internal employees are covering the tracks,” he added.

Approached for comment on the matter, Sithole dismissed the findings from the ombudsman’s office and said he had no reason to doubt Macleod.

“I’ve told the ombudsman that I disagree with his conclusion, especially as the very people who are making these allegations against Neil are the ones we are investigating for fraud within the department.

“There are far bigger issues at stake here and they have been involved in corruption worth millions and are now trying to set Neil up in retaliation. Neil has my unequivocal support and I completely disagree with the report from my head of investigations,” said Sithole.

Several sources within the council who did not want to be named also reacted with disbelief at the allegations against Macleod, with one saying: “Neil doesn’t need this job. He is close to retirement. He doesn’t live the high life and has been head-hunted by some of the world’s leading figures, which he has turned down.”

Another, more vocal, supporter was the DA’s Tex Collins who said: “I’ve known Neil for 16 years and the best way to describe him is straight as an arrow. Those trying to discredit him are the ones he has kicked out for fraud and corruption. So they can just shove their allegations because I don’t believe Neil is guilty.” - Sunday Tribune