Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has ordered the reinstatement of a whistleblower in a local municipality in the North West. She has also ordered that a policy be put in place to protect whistleblowers at the same municipality. Photo: African News Agency (ANA).
RUSTENBURG - Public protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane has ordered Matlosana Local Municipality in North West to reinstate a whistleblower and to put in place a policy to protect whistleblowers.

Mkhwebane found that the municipality suspended Mpho Seero, the chief audit executive, in retaliation for blowing the whistle on what he considered to be irregular and unauthorised expenditure at the municipality. 

Mkhwebane instituted an investigation after Seero alleged that the former acting municipal manager, Sipho Mabuda, improperly suspended him following Seero's submission of a protected disclosure to the municipal council.

The disclosure involved what Seero considered to be irregular procurement activities involving irregular expenditure of  R32 442 930. 39  between 2003 and 2013 for fuel at a local petrol station, unauthorised expenditure of R160 662 953.11 and irregular expenditure of R 21 802 287.38 on municipal infrastructure grant (MIG) projects. He also believed Supply Chain Management regulation 36 had been misused. 

Regulation 36 allows for money to be released in cases of  emergency, which means normal processes don't have to be adhered to as time is considered limited (for example clean-up operations after flood damage). 

On the fuel matter, council had appointed Seero to lead an investigation involving irregular expenditure at a local petrol station. Seero found that vehicles not listed in the municipal fleet were filled with petrol or diesel more than once a day. He also found that there was no service agreement between the municipality and the petrol station.

Following her investigation, the public  protector found that Seero's suspension was unreasonable, unfair and could justifiably be seen as an exercise by Mabuda to remove Seero, who had accused Mabuda of being involved in the corrupt activities. 

Mkhwebane directed the current municipal manager to ensure that Seero was reinstated to his position within 30 days of the date on the final report, which was May 13.  

The municipal manager was also to ensure that the public protector's report was tabled before council and had to write a letter on behalf of the municipality apologising to Seero for the prejudice he experienced.

The municipal manager also had to ensure that a policy dealing with protected disclosures in the workplace was developed to create "a culture of openness and accountability without fear of reprisals or occupational detriment", within 90 working days. 

African News Agency (ANA)