Zuma signs proclamation to have Lesedi investigated

Executive Mayor of Lesedi Local Municipality Lerato Maloka

In what can be viewed as a case of the pot calling the kettle black, South African President Jacob Zuma on July 4 signed a proclamation authorising the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to investigate certain matters relating to the affairs of the Lesedi Local Municipality (LLM).

This comes after the Democratic Alliance had two years earlier met with and informed the SIU of inter alia various accounts of funds that were allocated to untraceable service providers.

For this matter to proceed the SIU requires a minimum of 10 serious cases of misconduct to be reported to it. By January no less than 26 verifiable cases (urgent matters) were brought under the unit’s attention.

The SIU has been tasked with, among other things, to investigate the procurement of, or contracting of goods, work or services by or on behalf of the municipality and payments made in respect thereof in a manner that was not fair, transparent, equitable and contrary to applicable legislation.

What has been a great concern for Lesedi residents is the misappropriation of funds which over the last financial year totalled R40-million.

The SIU will look into these unauthorised, irregular or fruitless and wasteful expenditures incurred by LLM in respect of refuse removal services, the supply and delivery of fuel, an automated time and attendance system and organisational re-engineering related service.

It would also not come as a surprise if a thorough investigation of the company in charge of collecting funds from pre-paid electricity meters is launched.

HERAUT this week learned that this company has over the last few months tapered down on the transferring of funds, and that it now owes LLM more than R20-million.

Thousands of Ratanda ratepayers were left in the cold from July 3 to 8 while the changeover to a “new system” was being implemented.

Another task of the SIU will be to investigate LLM’s failure to pay its debts timeously. Over the last six months LLM was forced to settle a R53-million account it had with Eskom to avoid a total blackout. Furthermore the SIU has to look into the failure or refusal by the LLM Audit Committee to submit prescribed audit reports to the Municipal Council.

On May 4 LLM’s Municipal Public Accounts Oversight Report (MPAC) stated that the municipality was not improving from its initial audit findings as per the report of the Auditor General.

“The committee felt that there is a drastic need for action to be taken to monitor the mitigation plans developed according to section 23 of the Municipal Finance Management Act and constant oversight be conducted to detect non-compliance as early as possible,” the MPAC report read.

An internal audit of any unlawful or improper conduct by councillors, officials of the municipality, contractors or suppliers of the municipality in as far as it relates to the allegations mentioned will also be conducted.

It is no state secret that the Hawks – South Africa’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) which targets organised crime, economic crime, corruption and other serious crime – are also investigating a range of very serious allegations against LLM officials.

The Democratic Alliance, the driving force behind the investigation, said that the initiation of the probe confirmed its long held suspicion that corruption is rife at the municipality.

“This process started two years ago when Lesedi spent R1-million on a promotion company that was supposed to help with the so called ‘Ham Fest’ festival in Ratanda which never saw the light of day,” said Ward 8 Councillor Mirna Mulder.

“The company disappeared and so did the money and subsequently the DA made a point of highlighting these and other suspicious activities during council meetings.” “We are satisfied that the probe will now finally be conducted.”

Lesedi DA Caucus Leader, Gerry Holtzhausen said: “It has been a long and tedious process that the DA initiated two years ago, but the work with the SIU is now paying off. Hopefully the SIU’s investigation will root out all the bad apples, and get LLM back on track as a well-managed and effective and efficient Municipal entity.”

The Economic Freedom Fighters in Lesedi said through their sub-regional coordinator that the authorisation of the probe is a fine example of democracy at work.

“Lesedi has for a very long time been plagued by a very serious cancer and we believe that the investigation by the SIU will act as a chemotherapy as part of the healing process,” the EEF’s Isaac Khithika said.

He said that the government ordered “chemotherapy” is needed to ensure that a total cleansing of LLM could take place and that it would allow the municipality to return to its former glory days.

“We shall wait for the outcome of the investigation believing it will favour the poor and the oppressed.”

The executive Mayor and acting Municipal Manager remain silent on the matter, although the Mayor has recently published her opinion on health laws that she feels are bad for business.

Perhaps corruption is also bad for business…

Michael Mentz

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