Tshwane nails 15 in graft probe

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pretoria - At least 15 City of Tshwane employees are facing suspension from the municipality over mismanagement and financial irregularities - and more heads are expected to roll as the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) begins a big probe on the city's operations.

The City's new mayor, Kgosientso Ramokgopa, revealed on Monday that the 15 employees were implicated in a graft report, commissioned by former Mayor Gwen Ramokgopa last year.

The move comes days after President Jacob Zuma ordered the SIU to probe both the Tshwane and Ekurhuleni metros, with the intention of addressing concerns around procurement, as well as allegations of mismanagement and maladministration.

Former Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner, Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza, led the investigation in 2009, which at the time looked at accusations leveled against former municipal manager, Kiba Kekana.

Kekana was later suspended over allegations of misconduct and maladministration. Reports suggested that he had failed to control his expenditure, amid allegations related to him receiving a housing allowance while occupying a municipal-owned house, and the municipality paying for all his cellphone calls.

Ramokgopa said the report would be handed over to the council before it is made public. "It is clear from what we have seen that there is evidence that people have committed acts that warrant the city to take disciplinary measures. We will take some very decisive [action] and there will be suspensions," he said.

The irregularities were apparently picked up in the Departments of Finance, Economic Development, Community Development, Social Development and Community Safety.

While acting City Manager, Oupa Nkoane, was not willing to divulge details of the allegations levelled against the employees, he did say the probe had to do with a series of conflict of interests, including irregular awarding of tenders.

The city is yet to present the alleged culprits with charge sheets and notices of suspensions. "I think we need to allow the process to take their course. It must be seen that people are treated fairly during these investigations," Nkoane said.

According to the proclamation released on Monday, Zuma wants the SIU to investigate recruitment and selection processes in the appointment of staff at the Tshwane metro. Also to be investigated by the 20 person-strong team of investigators are issues surrounding the management of internal controls and municipal-owned entities.

The investigation into Ekurhuleni would look at procurement processes, as well as misrepresentations made by contractors, suppliers, service providers or bidders seeking to provide services.

SIU head Willie Hofmeyr on Monday confirmed that the full investigation was likely to carry on for a period of two years, but that reports will be made available on a regular basis. Some investigations were likely to take longer, while swift action was expected on some cases.

"I think in any investigation, what is important is that you must be seen to be taking action... corruption is a problem not only in government but throughout society. For the state to aspire public confidence, there must be action taken against anyone who may be found to be breaching the set rules," Hofmeyr said.

The investigations were part of an extensive probe on several government departments and state-owned entities.