Taxi ranks in Ekurhuleni are costing exorbitant amounts — one has a price tag of more than R50-million — but for reasons unknown the buildings remain incomplete.
Now the metro’s head of transport, Lusanda Madikizela, is being investigated and is facing suspension as a result of a report compiled by the metro’s human resource department after an employee blew the whistle on maladministration. The investigation could put more heads on the block, including that of mayoral committee member, Petrus Mabunda, who runs the transport department.
According to ANC sources in the metro, council members were at loggerheads at the council meeting last week, not knowing whether to suspend the city manager, Imogen Mashazi, for releasing the report, or the head of department for signing off on the payment. This was confirmed by opposition parties.
The council resolved that Madikizela should be investigated and should give reasons for why she should not be suspended.
Ekurhuleni spokesperson Themba Gadebe said the metro can’t comment about the case until the investigation has been completed. But the report that rattled council last week raises serious allegations of financial misconduct pertaining to the transport department. “The purpose of the report is to request the municipal council to authorise the suspension of the senior manager and further give authority to conduct an investigation into the alleged misconduct.”
The matter goes back to 2014, when the metro contracted Lebaka Construction and Bukwa Kazi Joint Venture to build the Vosloorus taxi rank for about R17.8-million. According to the report the contract was supposed to take eight months but remains incomplete — and the contract amount was also increased by R3 563 277, making a total of R21.2-million.
“Notwithstanding that the increase in value and despite that the contractor did not complete the works as per the contract, payment was nonetheless made,” according to the report.
The metro then brought in a consultant to audit the work done. It was found that many things were incomplete.
But instead of recovering the funds, the head of department contracted Rembu Construction to complete the construction for more than R21-million.
According to the report, this new company has already been paid R17-million but an additional amount of R12-million had been requested and approved in the budget to complete the project.
Madikizela said she had not seen the report and denies having had anything to do with any of the appointments as she was only appointed after the contracts were in place.
“The appointment of Kuba Kwazi, and all payments to them were made between 2014 and 2015, two years before my appointment. Kuba Kwazi had de-established site, the project was halted for 25 months, due to a lack of funds to continue with the project. There was extensive vandalism and a deterioration of the works that had been completed, even though there were security guards on site,” she said.
The report states that a project initially meant to cost R17.8-million has escalated to R50-million, and the taxi rank has still not been completed.
In another case, in 2015, the metro appointed the same contractors, Lebaka Construction and Bukwa Kazi Joint Venture, to construct the Bluegum taxi rank for about R12.5-million.
“The contractor eventually abandoned site as it had no motivation to complete the works as they were already paid in advance. After abandoning site, the department eventually terminated their contract,” the report states.
Madikizela confirms that the work has not been completed but the company did not receive a further R2-million payment due to them.
Gadebe said Madikizela had been granted seven days to give the city reasons why she should not be placed on precautionary suspension while the investigation unfolds.
“The city has reasons to believe that her continued presence in active service may either jeopardise the investigation, be detrimental to the stability of the department in question, or she may interfere with witnesses,” he said.
Others in the metro believe that the buck doesn’t stop with Madikizela and there are more people who will be implicated.
Democratic Alliance council member Bruce Reid said the investigation is expected to be compete in 30 days.
“We suspect that there are members of the mayoral council who are going to be implicated and the full investigation will show how the political heads are involved,” he said.
When the mayoral committee member of roads and transport, Mabunda, was asked how these funds were signed off on his watch, he said he had taken office in August 2016 and had nothing to do with the appointment of the joint ventures that did not finish the work.
“I am the political head, yes, but right now I can’t say much about the allegations because of the ongoing investigation. My views will be subject to the completion of the investigation,” he said.