Fraud rife in Cape Town planning dept, says report

A damning report leaked to the Mail & Guardian exposes how fraud was rife at the City of Cape Town’s planning and building development management department, with many instances of money changing hands across the counter to speed up the approval of building plans.

The report by employment law specialists Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs describes cases where city officials drew up building plans for clients without permission, and then ensured the plans were approved in record time.

City officials could potentially make R1,5-million a year from this extra work.
Those implicated were found to be drawing plans either under their own name, or in the name of a family member, front company, or friend working in the system.

Members of the public who submitted their plans in the normal way had to wait long periods for approval, as employees doing private jobs were pushing their own plans to the front of the queue, the report found.

It led to a crackdown by the city, in which 32 employees were investigated for misconduct, and 12 of whom were disciplined internally. Seven were sacked and two resigned before being charged.

The report says that the council employees could influence the building inspector, resulting in some site work not being properly inspected and failing to comply with building regulations.

When complaints were received from the public about structures encroaching on building lines, plans were often still approved.

‘There was an incident where the employee was drawing the plans and pushing the plan through in one day and would then also inspect the work,” the report said.

A whistle-blower blew the lid on such practices.

However, the report says strong rumours had earlier circulated about “moonlighting” by staff, raising questions about how the abuses continued for so long.

Council spokesperson Charles Cooper, said the city “is still winding up the second phase” of the investigation.

Some officials have still to be probed for allegedly running a private construction company.

Al Stratford, president of the South African Institute of Architects, said that people were using municipalities to circumvent the law. Similar abuses were also taking place in smaller municipalities.

Glynnis Underhill

Glynnis Underhill

Glynnis Underhill has been in journalism for more years than she cares to remember. She loves a good story as much now as she did when she first started. The only difference is today she hopes she is giving something back to the country. Read more from Glynnis Underhill

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