Council in court over supply chain management policy
Durban - A municipal manager believed “something was amiss” when senior officials from an entity and their council agreed to alter their supply chain management (SCM) policy on awarding of contracts recently, even though he warned that it was a breach of legislation.
Musawenkosi Hadebe, municipal manager at the Ndwedwe Local Municipality, claimed his suspicions were confirmed a few days after the SCM policy change was tabled at a council meeting on December 15.
That’s when another senior manager, citing the changed SCM policy, proposed multimillion-rand security tenders be awarded to three service providers on their database, days before Christmas.
The contracts were meant to commence on January 1.
Hadebe lodged an urgent application with the Durban High Court to interdict the council’s decision to implement the new SCM resolution.
Forty-two respondents were listed in the matter, including Ndwedwe’s mayor, Nkosinathi Chili, various senior officials and councillors.
It was unopposed before Judge Kate Pillay, who granted a temporary order, and adjourned the matter until February.
In his court documents, prepared by Roy Singh Attorneys, Hadebe said council’s first steps to amend their SCM policies occurred at a workshop the municipality held in Durban in November.
All the respondents were present and after much robust discussion, the SCM revision was agreed upon.
The contentious issue was about adopting a resolution whereby appointing service providers from their panel had now become the duty of “user departments”.
And that the chief financial officer’s duty was to check availability of budget and the role of municipal manager was to sign off on contract appointment letters.
One of Hadebe’s contentions with the new SCM policy raised at the December 15 meeting was that full council had yet to adopt it.
“The usual protocol is that resolutions, after they are raised, must be formally adopted at the next full council meeting,” which Hadebe said was scheduled for a date in January.
In December, Hadebe informed the house that he was “entirely uncomfortable” with the proposed resolution.
On December 18, Hadebe also sent a letter to all their HODS, reminding them of legislative provisions regarding delegation of powers, according to the Municipal Finance Management Act and the Local Government Systems Act.
He said he wrote to remind them that HODS and other senior officials were not in statutory position to appoint service providers, without proper delegation from him.
Regardless, the senior official in question, circulated a memo calling for the security contract which was worth millions to be awarded to the nominated companies.
The companies were: Pro Secure Protecting the Country, Khanyisani Protection Services and Abadali Trading and Trading.
Hadebe said the official made the tender recommendation while he was on leave, with assistance from another official.
Hadebe said: “I have little choice but to draw the irresistible conclusion that there is some form of maladministration and corruption regarding the passing of the resolution.”
He also revealed that when he previously requested permission from council to investigate misconduct allegations against the same official, he was refused.
Hadebe said his court action was justified because he was duty-bound to act “in the best interests of the municipality” and prevent “irregular expenditure and economic harm”.
Chili said Hadebe’s decision to approach the court and challenge a council decision “shocked him” because council was the municipality’s supreme decision making body.
“I’m not sure what Hadebe is challenging because we were not talking about issuing tenders in the council meeting, but we took a decision on SCM policies.
“Officials have to then implement council’s decision.
“I have never seen a municipal manager taking the council that employs him to court.”
Chili said he did not attend the hearing but wondered whether Hadebe went as an individual or a municipal manager because he had “his own lawyer to represent him”.
Chili said if council took the wrong decisions, then Hadebe should have instead approached Cogta (Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs) or provincial treasury departments.
About the official’s proposal to award tenders, Chili said that had nothing to do with council.
“Council is not involved in the awarding of tenders.
“If he had a problem with the official in question, Hadebe should have taken him to court to explain.”
Chili said the municipality was prepared to approach the highest courts to preserve the decision-making powers of their council.