By Chantelle Benjamin

Ethekwini’s forensic Manase report, which implicated senior municipal officials and politicians in financial irregularities, fraud and corruption estimated at R2.2-billion, has been handed over to the special crime task team set up by the presidency.

Meanwhile, the slow pace of internal disciplinary procedures against officials and councillors has been criticised, with only three councillors being fined since the report was released in February 2012. This is despite findings that 10 councillors and 123 municipal officials in Ethekwini metro municipality had been in business with the city.

The report by Manase and Associates has been controversial because like an earlier probe – the Ngubane report, commissioned by an Ethekwini accounting officer – the findings have not been made fully available to the public.

Only selected data from the Manase report has been released publically and, most controversially, city councillors have only been being given access to a summarised version of the document.  

Disciplinary action ‘under way’

Hawks spokesperson McIntosh Polela confirmed to Corruption Watch that the report had been handed over to the team, made up of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks), the Asset Forfeiture Unit, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the South African Receiver of Revenue and Financial Intelligence Centre.

Ethekwini spokesperson Thabo Mofokeng said the report “was handed over to the South African Police Service in March”, and that disciplinary processes for officials reporting to the city manager are under way “in terms of the collective bargaining agreements”.

Polela said in terms of criminal charges, “it was still early days in the investigation” and there were unlikely to be any charges laid in the “immediate future”.

A summarised version of the Manase report was made public in February by KwaZulu-Natal Cooperative Governance MEC Nomusa Dube.

The three councillors who have admitted guilt and been fined are:

  • Municipal chief whip Stanley Xulu (fined a year’s salary)
  • Nondumiso Cele (fined two weeks’ net salary)
  • Senzangakhona Shange (fined four weeks’ net salary)

DA chief whip for Ethekwini Tex Collins criticised council’s decision, saying it amounted to a slap on the wrist for the councillors.

“Considering how much money they more than likely made out of the city, the fines are not a real deterrent,” he said. “They have also only taken action against three councillors so far.”

Both the DA in KwaZulu-Natal and Corruption Watch have informed the metro that they will launch a Promotion of Access to Information (PAIA) application, if the full report is not made public.

Polela said the Hawks were conducting a number of investigations relating to the report, and had requested additional information relating to the probe on Wednesday 17 May and the following day from Durban’s City Hall.

“We had set up a meeting with the new city manager S’bu Sithole on the Wednesday, and it was during that meeting that we told him that we would need additional documents. It took two days to collect the documents we needed,” said Polela.

He said it was unlikely that charges would be drawn up.

It’s believed that documents were removed from departments including IT, housing and procurement and infrastructure.

The investigation is looking at the awarding of tenders in particular, and how they were awarded and who benefitted. The report found a number of instances in which tender procedures had been flouted.

Disciplinary action was recommended in the report against, among others, head of procurement and infrastructure Derek Naidoo. This was for non-compliance with supply chain management in terms of the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA).

Action was also recommended against housing head Cogi Pather for failure to exercise due care and failure to comply with the MFMA.

Council resolutions

The city council resolved on 29 February, among other things, to have allegations regarding the rental and sale of RDP houses investigated by the SIU, which is already conducting a national housing investigation at the request of Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale.

It also decided that all other officials implicated in the report would be charged with misconduct. These include officials implicated in the Crossmoor, Bayview, Chatsworth, Mariannridge, Westridge, Burbreeze and Hammonds Farm projects.

In the case of the R24-million Westridge Housing Rehabilitation Project, appointment letters are alleged to have been issued before applicants submitted appropriate documentation.

The council has also set aside the solid waste contract with Our Environmental Waste Solutions, which has two of the former mayor’s daughters as directors.

The report also recommends action against former city manager Mike Sutcliffe, whose contract ended on 3 January 2012. He could face criminal action for not reporting fraudulent and corrupt activities in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act and contravention of the MFMA for not promptly reporting irregular expenditure.

The Ngubane report was dismissed by Sutcliffe and never made public.

The council also called for the new city manager to see what could be “salvaged” of the Revenue Management System, which has seen development costs balloon from an estimate of R90-million in 2003 to its current R474-million.

In terms of allegations against Ethekwini’s metro police officers, the city manager has been tasked by council with reviewing the employment of metro cops, who allegedly bought their drivers licences, and taking disciplinary action against those who also operate taxi businesses.

The South African Municipal Workers Union has requested that metro police head Eugene Nzama be fired or reassigned to another department.

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Excerpt
The controversial Manase report, which names top officials involved in R2.2-billion worth of fraud and corruption in Durban municipality, has been handed over to the presidency’s special crime task team.