Pretoria - Tshwane mayor Stevens Mokgalapa cancelled a trip to China by a high-level delegation after it emerged that city manager Dr Moeketsi Mosola sanctioned it without being authorised to do so.
The Pretoria News can confirm that Mokgalapa discovered that Mosola “erroneously” signed a document to authorise the expedition on behalf of the mayor without permission.
The delegation was scheduled to attend a C40 Cities conference in China and participate in deliberations on climate change. The capital is part of the C40 Cities, a global network of large cities taking action to address climate change.
Mokgalapa is reported to have been livid when he learnt that Mosola had authorised the trip behind his back.
He then ordered the trip to be put on ice, forcing officials to cancel hotels and flight bookings.
As a result of the cancellation, the City incurred fruitless expenditure, having already spent exorbitant amounts of money.
Speaking to the Pretoria News, Mokgalapa confirmed that he called off the trip after he identified an anomaly on the signed document.
He said he would institute a probe into this before making up his mind about the next step.
The document, which the Pretoria News has seen, showed that Mosola signed it twice on different dates, for himself and the mayor.
He first signed the document next to his name on March 15 and again on March 18 next to Mokgalapa's name.
Mokgalapa was then presented with the document on March 29 to sign despite Mosola having already signed where the mayor was supposed to.
“The city manager signed and on realising that he signed on my space he cancelled it. When I saw it, I scratched it and said I am not signing it. I cancelled the trip and said no one was going to China,” Mokgalapa said.
The mayor said although the trip was important, he had to refuse it to show accountability. “I couldn't let them go. I said those who have booked already must make sure they recoup the money. How do you go ahead and do the booking without a signature?”
According to Mokgalapa, the tendency by officials to go on trips before full authorisation had been granted had become a “norm in the city”.
“Before documents are signed people go to the travel agency to book the hotel,” he said.
He was told about the trip on Friday afternoon (March 29) while officials were expected to depart that Sunday.
“Whoever is responsible for it must face the consequences.”
Mosola is one of the people who must account for what happened. “If this thing was realised earlier on then we could have fixed it. They should have reprinted the part where they needed my signature and it should have been brought to me timeously.
“It comes to me on a Friday afternoon and the people are leaving on Sunday. It is like having a gun to somebody’s head to sign,” he said.
Mokgalapa said he would rather have wasteful and fruitless expenditure, “but my conscience is clear. The accountability part is done in that I refused the trip”.
“I am instituting an investigation into it to see who is responsible. The most important thing is that I stopped the anomaly myself after realising that, ‘oops’, somebody has already signed on my signature,” he said.
“I want to reiterate that no one went on this trip at the cost of the city. I have instructed my acting chief of staff to investigate the error that was picked up by the finance department on the report. I will apply my mind about consequence management when I receive a report in this regard."