Our zero this week is North West’s wealthiest municipality – the Bojanala Platinum District – where close to 30 employees were found to have awarded tenders among themselves and to other government officials, in deals worth millions of rands.

The auditor-general’s report and the Municipal Public Accounts Committee oversight report for 2011/12 detail how close to 30 municipal employees awarded tenders to each other and to other government officials, in deals worth millions of rands. The oversight report was released at a recent Bojanala council meeting.

The real victims of this sorry mess are the residents of the province who have gone without water and other basic services to line the pockets of a select few.

Corruption Watch’s own statistics have shown that the highest incidence of graft happens at local government level, with 22% of reports received from the public in our first year implicating municipalities.

We’re also concerned that reports from small towns make up 42% of the total number of incidents reported to the organisation in the last year, figures that tie in with the auditor-general’s findings.

Here’s what The Times reported last week:

Setting aside R1-million to buy a boat that never sailed and a sunflower-planting project that never got off the ground these are just two examples of how North West municipalities are wasting taxpayers' money.

And an auditor-general's report has shown that employees of the province's wealthiest municipality, Bojanala Platinum District, awarded tenders to each other and to government officials.

Millions squandered

The Municipal Public Accounts Committee oversight report, released at a recent Bojanala council meeting, and the auditor-general's report, paint a damning picture of how millions of rands from Bojanala district and the five municipalities under its administration are being misused.

The 2011-2012 reports found that:

  • The Madibeng local municipality channelled R1-million, not budgeted for, to buy a boat. It was never bought and R250 000 of the amount was used to buy a vehicle, apparently for a municipal official;
  • Bojanala paid R139 000 to Vitjo Media to develop and upgrade its website in September 2011. The committee later discovered that the website was not functional and important information, such as statements of policies, bylaws, council minutes and bids, was not available on it;
  • R3-million was spent by the Moses Kotane local municipality to clear a piece of land in Magong town, near Rustenburg, and plant sunflowers. On inspection, the committee found that the flowers were not planted and the project did not exist;
  • In the town of Skierlik, residents could access water for only three weeks after R8-million was spent on a water-supply project because of poor work. Taps were placed far from houses and were vandalised, pipes were left exposed and the Moretele local municipality failed to maintain the project due to an unpaid electricity bill;
  • Bojanala transferred R7.9-million from a conditional grant to fund salaries and other expenses, contrary to grant conditions.

Bojanala spokesperson Archie Babeile did not respond to questions e-mailed to him on Friday (5 April 2013).

Though the auditor-general gave Bojanala an unqualified audit, he found that R3-million was spent wastefully, irregularly or without authorisation.

Tenders awarded to municipal and government officials included one to MKE Masemola, an acting director for local economic development in Bojanala district, who is still in that position. Her company, Gopotse Civil Construction, reportedly received R1370 00 from the Madibeng municipality, which falls under Bojanala.

About 25 other officials were awarded tenders.

R29m for private consultants to do municipalities’ jobs

Also last week, Mail & Guardian Online reported that it was only due to the hiring of private consultants, at a hefty cost, that all 24 municipalities in the province submitted their financial statements in time for the 2011/12 audit.

Municipalities in North West were hailed by the province’s leadership towards the end of 2012 for meeting auditor-general Terence Nombembe’s deadline – but what was not revealed at the time was that this achievement cost taxpayers R29-million.

For years, the province’s local government structures have come under fire from Nombembe for their poor financial management and for not taking seriously their duty to submit to his office.

According to the M&G, the news of the consultants’ involvement angered Premier Thandi Modise, who heard about it during a briefing by the provincial office of the attorney-general. It reported that only five municipalities received unqualified audit reports. Modise is angry that those who are responsible for poor performance are not being held accountable by their municipalities.

Declared dysfunctional

Municipalities in North West are no strangers to controversy. At the beginning of April, three of them were put under administration by the provincial executive committee of the legislature. Matlosana, Ditsobotla and Maquassi Hills were deemed dysfunctional in certain areas of their operations, said provincial spokesperson Lesiba Kgwele, and would receive the province’s support to help them recover.

And in the past year, Corruption Watch has received a range of reports detailing allegations of maladministration, nepotism, wasteful expenditure, abuse of power and conflict of interest, among other transgressions in North West.

Our zero this week is North West’s wealthiest municipality – the Bojanala Platinum District – where close to 30 employees were found to have awarded tenders among themselves and to other government officials, in deals worth millions of rands.