The Western Cape government and Old Mutual respond to De Lille fraud claims in George municipality

By Suné Payne 7 April 2019

Good Party leader Patricia de Lille. (Photo: Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Jaco Marais)

On Thursday, a former member of the DA Patricia de Lille handed over a dossier of information to the Public Protector’s office claiming corruption at George Municipality — a DA-led council.

Read in Daily Maverick: De Lille on the warpath against DA again, this time citing corruption in George.

Patricia de Lille has handed over a dossier to the Public Protector alleging “VBS-style” corruption in the DA-led George Municipality. However, the ministry of local government in the Western Cape has said de Lille’s claim is “devoid of facts”.

On Thursday morning 4 April, the former DA member and now leader of the Good party, De Lille went to the Public Protector’s offices in Cape Town to hand over documents in connection with a 2018 case related to alleged kickbacks received by a councillor’s son for an investment scheme.

The allegations of corruption are not new — in August 2018, the George Herald reported on the suspension of George chief financial officer Keith Jordaan for 60 days for possible financial irregularities, along with another municipal councillor.

According to a forensic report by a law firm given to journalists by Good on Thursday in Cape Town, a total of R350-million was invested at Old Mutual by the George Municipality in 2017.

Daily Maverick sent a right of reply to Anton Bredell, MEC for Local Government and Environment Affairs and Development Planning. This is Bredell’s response to De Lille’s allegations:

The Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning in the Western Cape, Anton Bredell has noted comments made by the leader of an opposition party in the province, Ms Patricia De Lille, pertaining to the George Municipality.

Sadly, Ms De Lille has made unfounded statements that are devoid of fact.

The Western Cape Government prides itself on taking strong action against any allegations of corruption and acting on wrongdoing without fear or favour.

In addition, the provincial government is always prepared to answer to any questions relating to impropriety and wrongdoing with a clear conscience, hence this statement.

In this matter, Ms De Lille states that “evidence (of alleged corruption) has been repeatedly reported to the provincial government which has failed to act…”

If Ms De Lille cared anything for the rule of law, or at the very least cared for the truth, she would have contacted me or the municipality in question to determine the facts first.

The facts in this matter are this:

The Provincial Government is in fact fully aware of the allegations pertaining to a possible investment scheme at the George Municipality.

A criminal matter has been reported to the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (DPCI) in George — known as the Hawks — and the provincial department has been in frequent contact with the DPCI in this regard. The DPCI office in George can be contacted for further information.

In addition, the Municipality has procured the services of a forensic firm to investigate the allegations and the Provincial Department is further aware that the Municipality has in fact already initiated disciplinary processes against the implicated municipal official.

Further to the above, the Provincial Government is also aware that the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) might explore the possibility of a Proclamation into the matter, should there be sufficient cause to do so.

While I am fully aware of the election season and the need to score cheap political points by grandstanding I would urge politicians to act responsibly and at the very least desist from spreading unverified rumours. It’s simply not a good idea.

In the Western Cape, we believe in sticking to the rule of law and not play-acting in the court of public opinion.

Queries to Bonginkosi Madikizela were referred to the statement sent by Bredell’s office.

According to documents seen by Daily Maverick, the investigative report concludes that “on the face of it, the chief financial officer of the George Municipality abused his position to ensure that Old Mutual Wealth be appointed as investment manager without the normal supply chain procedures being followed”.

Old Mutual, through chief communications director Tabby Tsengiwe, responded to Daily Maverick with the following statement:

Old Mutual views any allegations of financial misconduct in a serious light. We can confirm that we were approached by FTI Consulting, which had been mandated by George Municipality to investigate allegations of misconduct by its Chief Financial Officer. Old Mutual co-operated fully with the investigation and shared all relevant documentation with FTI Consulting in the interests of transparency.

Old Mutual wishes to confirm that it has honoured all of its contractual obligations towards the Municipality insofar as the specific investment mandates are concerned and there are currently no funds managed by Old Mutual on behalf of the George Municipality. DM


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