Corruption Watch has entered into correspondence with the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government and eThekwini mayor to obtain a copy of the controversial 700-page Manase report, which revealed R2.2-billion irregular expenditure by the metro over the past three years.
Corruption Watch – prompted by mounting outrage over the widespread abuse of public funds and resources – was set up to gather, analyse and report on graft-related matters.
The organisation’s executive director David Lewis said on Monday 12 March 2012 that they had filed a request to Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Nomusa Dube and eThekwini mayor James Nxumalo asking for a copy of the document. The request was sent via email on Friday 9 April.
In its letter Corruption Watch expressed concern that the "Manase report raises allegations of irregular expenditure, which in our view needs it be made public to the taxpayers of this country".
It continued: "We thus believe that access would be in the public interest and will go a long way in exposing corruption and strengthening the accountability of those – in both the public and private sectors – who are in a position to influence the deployment of, and access to, public resources."
On Monday 12 April the MEC responded to Corruption Watch, claiming the report could not be released into the public domain as the people named in it had not had a chance to respond to the allegations against them, citing the legal principle of audi alteram partem, which roughly translates as “the other side must be heard”.
A day later Corruption Watch in turn replied to Dube, pointing out that “the parties mentioned in the report have been given an opportunity to respond and therefore, in our view, the audi alteram partem principle has been complied with”.
The second letter went on to say that the report “is the result of an investigation and not a finding of guilt and should thus be made public”.
Corruption Watch intends to use the Promotion of Access to Information Act of 2000 to get the report released.
“We will give the MEC until Friday to respond to our latest letter,” said Corruption Watch communication head Bongi Mlangeni of Tuesday. “If she insists on not giving it to us, we will go ahead and launch a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) application.”
Earlier, Lewis said the report, which implicates high-ranking municipal officials and politicians, was too important to be filed away.
The council released a condensed version of the report, which incensed the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the province and spurred the party to launch its own PAIA application. It’s also threatening to take the matter to court to force it to hand over the document.
The Manase report was given to Cooperative Governance MEC Nomusa Dube in December 2011 and released to the mayor James Nxumalo recently.
The condensed version released implicated top officials, including former mayor Obed Mlaba, former city manager Michael Sutcliffe, treasurer Krish Kumar, city manager for infrastructure Derek Naidoo and head of housing Cogi Pather.
Both the media and the metro’s executive committee were only given copies of a media release.
According to senior officials, the City of eThekwini’s executive committee members were given an in-depth presentation, but were never able to access the full report, which may well implicate other officials who have not yet been named or expose further corruption.
Lewis said Corruption Watch had not asked for two versions of an earlier report, the Ngubane report, which was commissioned by the metro’s accounting officer and never made public, because they expected the Manase report touched on similar matters.
The Ngubane report was commissioned after a damning report by the Auditor-General for eThekwini's 2009/10 financial year.
eThekwini’s mayor is presently out of the country, according to his office, and is only expected to return by the end of the week, but the MEC’s personal assistant has confirmed to Corruption Watch that she received the letter, and said the MEC would consider its contents and respond.
The DA is not the only party concerned about the report. The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) recently called for eThekwini to be placed under administration.
IFP eThekwini caucus chairperson Mdu Nkosi said: "The fact that senior officials are implicated and need to be suspended will leave the municipality in disarray. Due to financial losses and as the removal of officials will place the municipality in a position of not being able to render basic services, we request that the province invoke section 139 of the Constitution."
He went on to say the municipality should not be responsible for the legal expenses of the officials who had been implicated.
Nkosi also raised questions about who had been named publically and who had not. "We are distressed it (corruption) is only now being addressed when the ANC (African National Congress) has its own internal scores to settle," he said.
Corruption Watch wants SIU’s health report too
Corruption Watch has also recently launched an application with the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and the Gauteng Department of Health for access to the report of an SIU investigation into allegations of fraud, procurement irregularities, and financial mismanagement in the Gauteng Health Department.
The investigation was initiated by a Proclamation in May 2010. However, the report on the investigation was never shared with the public.
The SIU report, said Lewis, was likely to reveal “crucial details about how public officials abused their power and public resources to undermine not only the health system but the general health of ordinary citizens”.
“Access to the SIU report will greatly assist the process of discussion of a report into corruption in the health sector which has been commissioned by Corruption Watch and which we expect to release soon. Healthcare corruption is not only about money – it’s about life and death,” he added.
- Read Corruption Watch's initial letter to MEC Nomusa Dube here
- Read MEC Nomusa Dube's response here
- Read Corruption Watch's response to MEC's letter here