The Manase report into dodgy dealings by officials and politicians in eThekwini reared its ugly head again this week, threatening to add a few more bumps to President Jacob Zuma’s road to Mangaung.
A summarised version of the report was released in February. It found that there had been more than a billion rand in irregular expenditure over a three-year period and implicated some high-ranking municipal officials and politicians. Now, addressing a rally in the Durban area of Lamontville, KwaZulu-Natal on Sunday, opposition leader Helen Zille said she wanted the president to force eThekwini municipality and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to make public the findings of the controversial 700-page report.
KwaZulu-Natal is the president’s home province and is known to be his support stronghold. Zille also said the DA would use the Promotion of Access to Information Act (Paia) to make sure the contents of the report were released. Reports vary of the amount at stake, from R2.2-billion to R 1.3-billion.
It won’t be the first time the Act has been invoked. Seven months ago, Corruption Watch sought access to the report but has not yet received a response to its application.
Zille’s call came hot on the heels of a R10.5-million lawsuit brought by former city manager Michael Sutcliffe on Friday, 19 October against his successor, Sibusiso Sithole, and eThekwini Municipality over a claim of incompetence or dirty dealings.
While Sutcliffe confirmed he was also pressing ahead with legal action against auditors Zodwa Manase and Associates, the authors of the forensic audit report that found money was lost through his failure to report fraud, Corruption Watch says it hasn’t lost the fight nor given up on its PAIA application to force the release of the report.
On 21 March, the organisation’s executive director, David Lewis, said Corruption Watch had filed a request with Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Nomusa Dube and eThekwini Mayor James Nxumalo, asking for a copy of the document.
In its letter, Corruption Watch stated its concern that the Manase report raised allegations of irregular expenditure, which needed to be made public to the taxpayers of the country. And like the DA and Sutcliffe, Corruption Watch will press on and continue to demand answers from authorities.
Meanwhile, the KwaZulu-Natal government said on Tuesday, 23 October that Durban councillors could view the full 700-page Manase report, but only after being sworn to secrecy. “Any councillor who wants to see the 700-page report can do so, but has to sign the confidentiality clause,” said the provincial co-operative governance and traditional affairs spokesman, Lennox Mabaso, Independent News reported this morning.
He said the councillors were “at liberty to divulge details, but face consequences”.
The forensic audit was instituted after the auditor-general said in his 2009/10 report that the municipality had irregularly spent R532-million. He said 10 councillors had business interests with entities conducting business with the eThekwini municipality.
The city was supposed to release the full contents of the Manase report in July, but on 1 August Nxumalo said it would not do so.