National

Deals for pals choke the North West Province

Mmanaledi Mataboge

Corruption and theft are robbing North West Province residents of services they should be getting from their municipalities, a report suggests.

North West MEC for co-operative governance and traditional affairs China Dodovu. (Supplied)

A Special Investigating Unit (SIU) report presented to the provincial government in November shows that politicians dipped into taxpayers' money to enrich themselves and those close to them at the expense of their community's needs.

Provincial politicians, however, are refusing to discuss the allegations.

The report is the outcome of the presidential proclamation from 2009 to investigate allegations of corruption between 2005 and 2009.

One of the worst affected municipalities, Madibeng in Brits, spent R4.9-million on tenders awarded to companies owned by its own employees. One municipal employee received the lion's share and R3.6-million went to his three companies.

At least 600 officials across the province's municipalities have business interests and the majority of them do business with their employers, the SIU report found.

Several service providers to the Madibeng municipality also claimed R5.8-million in value added tax, but the SIU found that those companies are not registered with the South African Revenue Services for tax.

Fictitious companies
There is also a trend of paying service providers for incomplete jobs or for no work. For example, the Madibeng municipality paid 18 companies R243 000 for cleaning streets, but the SIU found that most were "fictitious companies" and payments were made in cash, which made it impossible to trace individuals. Supply-chain management policies were flouted in almost all cases and it appears that "deals for pals", as a source called them, were the order of the day.

The Madibeng local municipality claimed to have spent R24 900 on funerals, but the SIU said "in some instances payments were authorised to companies that do not provide funeral services". A list of companies purportedly paid for funerals include sportswear chain store Totalsports; M-Bee's Glassworks, Bricks and Construction; and the Mr Cash & Carry store. In the Moses Kotane local municipality a supply chain manager ran a scam in which companies owned by her family members were awarded contracts.

"The SIU discovered that requisitions were only submitted to and quotations received from only three companies on a number of occasions. These quotations were submitted by her husband's company, a company belonging to her cousin and another company owned by a relative," said the SIU report.

Though municipalities have their own legal departments and, in most cases, a dedicated lawyer, an external legal firm was paid R20 000 for "perusal of a memorandum" and R50 000 for drafting a responding memorandum.

In the same municipality, a director for community safety used a municipal truck and its driver to transport building materials from Rustenburg to his home in Venda. The municipality footed the bill, which also included repairs after the truck broke down on its way from Venda, according to the report.

In the Greater Taung local municipality, a manager who had been in the municipality's employ for only three months had his salary increased from R133 000 to R250 000 a year without a council resolution. The SIU recommended that the former acting municipal manager repay the difference.

Factional politics
Despite the SIU working hard to dig up evidence of corruption, some officials who were suspended or dismissed were reinstated as a result of factional politics within municipalities. Commenting on the SIU report, North West MEC for co-operative governance and traditional affairs China Dodovu wrote a short analysis that claimed ANC politics were behind the waste of money in the province.

"There is general stability in municipal councils, but the general political landscape in the ANC in the province finds its expression mainly in municipal councils," he said. This week Dodovu said he was due to present the SIU report to the executive council of the provincial government. "It's a matter that is going to be presented so that we can discuss ways to implement the recommendations," he said.

The Mail & Guardian has learned from two ANC sources that the party's provincial executive committee (PEC) denied Dodovu an opportunity to present the SIU report at its meeting.

"China's own report on municipalities and the SIU report were rejected at the PEC. They said they're factional and politically motivated," said a PEC member.

Implications
ANC provincial chairperson Supra Mahumapelo said the PEC was not planning to discuss the SIU report. "We'll be [both] referees and players if we discuss that report. As soon as the police act we'll look at the implications, then we can say something."

The final SIU report on North West municipalities is expected in April.

Premier Thandi Modise's spokesperson Lesiba Kgwele said the office of the premier will monitor the implementation of the findings.

Modise has consistently warned officials against corruption.

Said Kgwele: "Odds appear to be stacked against the premier's administration from the syndicate of corruption, which is mobilising for the premier to be recalled in order to scatter investigations into its nefarious corrupt activities, but the executive council is unwavering in its resolve. It will not be intimidated, because the majority of people in the province hate corruption. It diverts and depletes resources that are supposed to better their lives."


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