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UNCOOPERATIVE GOVERNANCE

Shenanigans, suspicions and sex crimes in MEC’s report on state of Inxuba Yethemba municipality

Shenanigans, suspicions and sex crimes in MEC’s report on state of Inxuba Yethemba municipality
(Photo: en.wikivoyage.org / Wikipedia)

When the Eastern Cape’s MEC for cooperative governance, Xolile Nqatha, sent a team to investigate the Inxuba Yethemba municipality – supposedly providing services to Cradock and Middelburg – investigators returned with a report reading like a script for a soap opera. There were reports of sexual harassment and corruption and evidence that the council wanted to use R7-million in Covid-19 relief funds to renovate their chambers.

“Report to police. Report to police. Report to police.”

This is the phrase scattered throughout a report after an investigation into the Inxuba Yethemba municipality was triggered by a petition from residents desperate to get even the most basic service delivery from their councillors.

Late last year, communities in Cradock and Middelburg petitioned the MEC for cooperative governance, Xolile Nqatha, to investigate the municipality following the collapse of basic services in the area.

In December and January, the two towns that fall under the municipality were rocked by violent service delivery protests which claimed the lives of two people and saw several vehicles set alight. Damage ran into millions of rands.

Investigators were dispatched to the two towns. They reported back to Nqatha, who publicly released the findings on 12 February.

Investigators found that allegations of corruption relating to a tender to fumigate the municipal offices and a tender for PPE, as well as allegations of the theft of RDP building supplies by councillors, should be referred to the police.

Investigators uncovered several serious issues, including:

– The appointment of a convicted rapist out on parole. The municipality seemingly failed to do due diligence or background checks. The report said the man should not be fired as it was not his fault he got appointed, but that he shouldn’t be allowed to work with the public.

– The municipal manager remains on suspension since June 2020 due to unresolved matters concerning wasteful expenditure. 

– Managers for supply chain management and internal audit managers had been on suspension for longer than three months.

Two senior municipal employees were accused of sexual harassment. Investigators indicated that a team from the Eastern Cape department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs will be appointed to conduct further investigations.

Criminal charges unrelated to his work are pending against another senior municipal staff member. It is understood that these charges relate to stock theft.

Pension and medical aid contributions from employees are not being paid over to the respective funds. Last year, finance minister Tito Mboweni said this was a crime.

In June last year, the council voted to use R7-million in Covid-19 emergency funds to renovate their chambers. They had to be convinced that the Treasury would not allow it.

Security at the municipality has been provided for the past 11 years in terms of a “gentleman’s agreement”, with no supply chain management rules being followed.

There are allegations that councillors used material for RDP homes to upgrade their own homes. These were referred to the police for investigation.

A Covid-19-related  fumigation contract for the municipal offices was referred for criminal investigation. 

Investigators found tender fraud had been committed where bank details were changed after tenders were granted. 

There was a sudden and unexplained R7-million price reduction in the construction costs for a community hall. This will be investigated by the provincial treasury. 

The municipality owes Eskom R164-million and is currently repaying the debt at a rate of about R1-million a month.

Nqatha’s spokesperson, Makhaya Komisa, said that following allegations concerning maladministration at the Inxuba  Yethemba local municipality, Nqatha had dispatched a multi-disciplinary task team to check the veracity of the claims. 

“The team has completed its work and MEC presented the outcome to Inxuba Yethemba council. The team also developed an action plan with time frames.

“The council has noted the report for further endorsement after internal deliberations. After the council meeting, the MEC presented the same report and action plan to the Cradock concerned residents who submitted the petition to him,” he added. DM/MC

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