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​Ekurhuleni’s manager slips away quietly amid a R7.2bn wasteful expenditure probe

Ekurhuleni municipal manager Khaya Ngema resigned quietly just days before the country heads to the polls for this year’s local government elections.

His departure comes amid a criminal investigation into R7.2-billion of wasteful and fruitless expenditure, much of this during his term in office.

Democratic Alliance MP in the provincial legislature Ashor Sarupen confirmed that the charges were filed against Ngema and Ekurhuleni mayor Mondli Gungubele on July 22.

Sarupen said the DA has opened a criminal case at the Boksburg North police station. “We have already received an update that the file has been sent to the Hawks.”

Ngema was appointed Ekurhuleni municipal manager in 2009 but had his contract extended irregularly in 2012. He continued in the job despite a high court order that found the extension of his contract to be unlawful.

Ngema, who has enjoyed political support from Gungubele, hung on to his job as municipal bosses felt it would be less disruptive than to remove him so close to local elections.

Former local government MEC Jacob Mamabolo said previously that Ngema had performed his role with “admirable diligence and competence”, having obtained clean audits in one of the country’s top performing councils. Paul Mashatile replaced Mamabolo earlier this year.

But the Mail & Guardian has established that complaints about Ngema’s tenure were lodged with Mashatile’s office as early as March this year. And documents seen by the M&G show that Ekurhuleni last obtained a clean audit in 2009, shortly after Ngema was appointed.

Under Ngema’s watch, Ekurhuleni recorded:

  • R1.017-million in fruitless and wasteful expenditure and R2.2-million in irregular expenditure for 2010
  • Irregular expenditure of R15-million by 2011
  • Fruitless and wasteful expenditure of R149-million and irregular expenditure of R382-million at the end of 2013

Unlawful expenditure continued to rise during the 2014 financial year and people identified as having been awarded deals in which they ought to have declared their relationship to municipal employees faced no consequences for the actions, Mashatile was told.

The national treasury has insisted since 2007 that all senior managers undergo competency training in supply chain management.

“Ngema [and] certain other senior managers have attended this training but failed, more than once, to submit their portfolios of evidence.

“This not only results in the incurrence for the municipality of fruitless and wasteful expenditure in relation to paying for courses which are not completed, but also of Ngema and other senior managers being inappropriately qualified for the positions they hold,” according to the documents seen by the M&G.

To illustrate the effect of ill-qualified officials, Mashatile was informed of a bizarre property transaction in which Ekurhuleni officials offered to buy a property for R3-million although it was only valued at R1.8-million.

This purchase has now escalated to about R16-million and is currently before the municipality’s property division for approval.

It is unclear whether Ngema was pushed out ahead of the elections – the ANC has been putting up a fierce battle to retain this metro.

The party has put forward a mayoral candidate in the form of Mzwandile Masina, who is going head to head with the DA’s Ghaleb Cachalia, the son of late anti-apartheid activists and ANC stalwarts Yusuf and Amina Cachalia.

The City responds

Ekurhuleni Metro confirmed Khaya Ngema’s resignation but warned that allegations of wrongdoing against its leadership were false and defamatory in the absence of evidence.

In a statement in response to questions, the city said Ngema had served a full term plus an additional two years and that he was leaving because “he believes this is the right time to pursue other profession

“As far as we know, there are no criminal charges against the leadership of the City. We view the press conference that the DA called as part of an election ploy for publicity and remains just that. We challenge anyone who believes that a crime has been committed to open a case and provide evidence to the relevant fora.

In the meantime, the city has a solid management team and does not foresee any challenges going forward, the statement read.


M&G Slow

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Jessica Bezuidenhout
Jessica Bezuidenhout joined the Mail & Guardian as an investigative reporter in March 2016 after 20 years at the Sunday Times working on news and investigations. She has been the joint winner of several local and international journalism awards, including Nat Nakasa, Mondi, Vodacom regional journalist of the year and Misa, and runner-up for the 2003 Natali Prize.

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