The Mpumalanga Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs continued its response to the National Council of Provinces on the progress report on the interventions in terms of s106 of the Local Municipal Systems Act in the Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme, Govan Mbeki, Lekwa and Dr Js Moroka local municipalities.
In a virtual meeting, the Department reported on the maladministration and corruption allegations, the findings in the municipalities, and the investigations that had taken place. It also gave feedback on the remedial action measures taken by the municipalities, and the progress reports submitted by them.
Members described the report as incomplete, and strongly criticised the slow pace of the investigations and the lack of consequence management being imposed on those responsible for fraud and corruption. Many of those involved had already resigned from the municipalities, or had not been returned in the recent local government elections.
The Committee agreed to visit Mpumalanga in February next year, so that all the municipalities could give an account of what was being done to resolve the mismanagement and maladministration issues.
Department's response to forensic investigations
The Chairperson requested that the briefings focus only on key issues, as the meeting was a continuation of the meeting that had taken place.
Ms Busisiwe Paulina Shiba, Mpumalanga MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), said the Department had reached the following conclusions:
-Municipalities are to submit quarterly progress reports.
-Department will visit municipalities quarterly to verify progress reported by municipalities in addressing the findings of the S106 investigation reports.
-The investigation reports will be tabled to the new councils for them to be informed, and also to monitor their implementation.
-The new councils will be expected to give timeframes on addressing all findings that have not been addressed.
-The Department will continue to monitor the implementation of the recommendations of the investigation reports, and if such are not being implemented, it will not hesitate to explore any legal remedies available to it.
-Through the legal unit in the Department, municipalities will be supported to pursue civil cases against all individuals/ service providers where money must be recouped.
-All forensic reports will be handed over to law enforcement agents to pursue further action.
The Chairperson said the core of the presentation was the conclusion part, which outlined what Members needed to know. This was to ensure the Department was doing what it was meant to. Members could ask anything about the previous presentation, presented two weeks ago, as well as this presentation.
Ms S Shaikh (ANC, Limpopo) said she would like to see more consequence management being taken on the maladministration and corruption reported on municipalities, as these were very serious matters. Briefings on the outcomes of maladministration should be presented to the Committee as well, especially those that had been referred to law enforcement. She asked why the JS Moroka municipality had not addressed any of its findings. She asked for clarity on the methodology used for the findings that were reached. In the Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme municipality, the former mayor had made an irregular payment and given an illegal instruction to a legal practitioner, and had been exonerated. She asked when such decisions were made and how many non-findings were made during the investigations. ,
E Mthethwa (ANC, KZN), said he had a problem with investigations that were still not completed. There were a number of individuals who had not been ‘brought to book’ by law enforcement. No report had been submitted indicating the processes of the investigations regarding the individuals affected. It was difficult to consider a report ‘of this nature.’ The purpose of the report was to inform the Committee on what had transpired, and referred to the allegation in the Govan Mbeki Municipality of corrupt relations with a contractor, and asked whether money was exchanged, and what the value of the amount exchanged was. He sought further information about the irregular employment of employees resulting from nepotism, as it had not been explained. Were there were job vacancies prior to employing the individuals facing allegations? The municipality was reluctant to take a decision, and it made it difficult for the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) to deliberate on the matter. He said the report should be sent back to be finalised before it was presented again so that appropriate decisions could be taken.
Ms C Visser (DA, North West) agreed with her colleagues, and referred to slide eight of the presentation. She said the project management unit (PMU) manager’s case was being handled internally with internal discipline, despite it involving allegations of fraud and corruption. She asked why the municipality was involved in the disciplinary action in such a case, as the disciplinary action had taken so long there was now a new council that did not have all facts related to the allegation. It appeared as though fraud was being nurtured within the municipality. The executive mayor had resigned and was exonerated, and then returned as a Member of the Mayoral Committee (MMC). “Was this a slap on the wrist?” She asked rhetorically where the MMC was currently. She felt as though the municipality and the provincial government were dragging feet, considering the time that had lapsed and matters that had transpired in between, which was proof that there was no conclusion on the allegations. There had been maladministration and mismanagement, and even at the end of the term, councils did not know their limits and appeared to be poorly managed, which was unacceptable.
Ms M Bartlett (ANC, Northern Cape) said the report was short and very incomplete, and a more comprehensive report on the allegations needed to be included, as well as the legal implications. She felt the report presented need not be discussed, and could be discussed only when a thorough report had been completed. She warned the Department not to undermine the Committee. It should compile a report once again and return to the Committee at a future date.
Mr K Motsamai (EFF, Gauteng) said the report was not complete. At face value, it appeared as though it had been done just to present something to the Committee. It provided no information on the consequences for the previous council and the individuals who had resigned. He asked why people were not being charged. He wondered whether the MEC was doing the same thing that former President FW de Klerk had done -- waiting to reveal the truth only in his final days. He asked why these people engaging in corruption were not being charged immediately, instead of only after the fact. Why did it take a long time to resolve cases? He was aware of the notion that people were not being charged due to fear of those individuals. He asked why the Committee was not being given the names of those individuals. The MEC’s report should include the names of counsellors, and should be done afresh because it was incomplete.
Mr S Zandamela (EFF, Mpumalanga) said a case had been sent to law enforcement which was not mentioned in the report. He said that the MEC should elaborate on the issue of the R40 million. The fact that there were no arrests was worrying, yet year in and year out the Committee gets informed that progress was being made, but that was not the case. He exclaimed that “there is no progress in government at all.” No action was being taken against the individuals implicated. There would be progress only when people were arrested and the money was recovered.
Mr I Sileko (DA, Western Cape) said that from the outset of the presentation, he had asked himself what role the Committee was going to play, and by when, because some of the allegations involved individuals who had already left the municipality and councillors who had not been returned to office. His concern on the Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme municipality was the finding of the total collapse of human settlements, indicated on slide 10, and that people were beneficiaries who were not supposed to be beneficiaries, and there had been no response to that. He said the meaning of progress needed to be clarified, as it had a different interpretation for the authors of the report and the municipalities. The report did not state what needed to be done, and by whom. In local government, there was no consequence management, as everyone protected one another.
He was concerned about what role the Committee would play in terms of s106 to ensure whatever recommendations set would be implemented, and by which date. When were cases going to be reported, and to whom? When was the Committee going to get case numbers? In some municipalities there were clear conflicts of interest. In other municipalities, it was not disputed that bursaries were disbursed to friends and family, and no consequences were meted out against those people. No one was taking action on those matters. How would the Committee deal with this matter, as those people were no longer in the municipality? He said the recommendations needed to be implemented, the municipalities needed to take action, and the Committee needed to ensure that the recommendations were being implemented. He would have loved to engage with the municipalities, but ultimately the ‘buck’ stopped with the municipalities themselves, as they needed to take action.
The Chairperson said it was the duty of the MEC, in terms of s106, to be the person that instituted investigations into cases where there was nepotism, fraud and maladministration, corruption and any wrongdoing in a municipality, and to provide what needed for the investigations. Little had been done to recover public funds misappropriated, misused or stolen, and there was no consequence management to demonstrate that serious action had been taken against wrongdoers. No action had been taken against the perpetrators.
The report had shed light on the seriousness of the problems in Mpumalanga. The Committee was dealing with people who did not respect the law and the municipality, yet left without suffering any consequences. Councillors and mayors could take decisions as they pleased. Committee Members had visited municipalities such as Lekwa and JS Moroka, and the situations there were devastating. He had seen saw water and sewage spillages in a town that was once a beautiful mine. There were allegations that a mayor had employed bodyguards during his term, which was contrary to legislation, and had misused funds.
There was still much that needed to be done to get to the bottom of the issues to ensure they were resolved, as there was reluctance from the Department. He proposed that the Committee go to Mpumalanga next year for a week, so that all the municipalities could give an account of what was being done. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the HAWKS and law enforcement agencies would be asked to get to the bottom of these issues, including why investigations were not being finalised. He acknowledged the presentation made by the MEC, but said the cases were taking a long time to be resolved. Mpumalanga should be visited early next year, towards the end of February.
Mr Motsamai said this was not a report -- it had been presented just to play with the minds of the Members and to test the Committee. He supported what the Chairperson had suggested about going to Mpumalanga to sort out these issues. The MEC and her team were ‘telling us about what is not there,’ and had failed to prosecute people who were corrupt. Did she think she was talking to people who were illiterate?
The Chairperson disagreed with Mr Motsamai, saying that he could not draw a conclusion that there was no report when there was one presented, even though it had shortcomings.
MEC Shiba said she welcomed recommendations made by the Chairperson and the Members.
She said that when the investigations were done at COGTA, they were done in terms of s154 of the Constitution, as the provincial government had to support and strengthen the capacity of municipalities and allow them to resolve matters on their own, so that the councils could develop an action plan to resolve matters.
She said the project steering committee had been established to assist the Department with the implementation of the investigation report. The vetting of members elected was beyond the Department's jurisdiction. She welcomed all views regarding the consequence management that should be implemented against those found acting contrary to the law.
With regard to the JS Moroka investigation, after the Department had given the report, the municipality had developed an action plan and COGTA had monitored the work done by the municipality.
She welcomed the suggestion on visiting Mpumalanga for a week early next year. The Dr JS Moroka files were given to the HAWKS on 18 November. The Department would improve its performance, and the integrity monitoring unit at the Office of the Premier would assist the Department as well.
The Chairperson said Mpumalanga would be visited early next year. The Committee would invite municipalities and law enforcement agencies to deal with these cases and ensure that the people involved were fired, and that there were consequences.
The meeting was adjourned.
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