DM168

AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY

Suspicious ratepayers say municipal official’s disciplinary hearing must be public

Suspicious ratepayers say municipal official’s disciplinary hearing must be public
Shamir Rajcoomar, chief financial officer of the KwaDukuza municipality, has secured an interdict against disciplinary action being taken against him. (Photo: Supplied)

In the KwaDukuza Local Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal, residents have gone to great lengths to have their say about the latest claims of bribery and corruption.

Shamir Rajcoomar, the suspended chief financial officer of the KwaDukuza municipality, went to the Durban High Court last week and secured an interdict against disciplinary action being taken against him. The move follows ratepayers’ attempts to make public Rajcoomar’s hearing.

The municipality placed Rajcoomar on precautionary suspension in July for financial misconduct relating to irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

The charges date back to when the municipality changed bankers a few years ago and started migrating its bank accounts. At issue is the fact that some bank accounts were kept open because some ratepayers kept on paying into the old account. This was discussed by councillors at the time and was even the subject of a council report.

Then, earlier this year, the ANC moved against Rajcoomar, saying bank fees of about R37,000 were notched up in the process and he was to blame.

Ratepayers were surprised by the vigorous action against Rajcoomar, a career civil servant. The municipality has had 17 unqualified audits under his watch, and in 2012 was voted by Ratings Afrika as the most financially sustainable in the country.

Municipality well run

Warwick Chapman, chairperson of the KwaDukuza Residents’ Forum, said as far as residents were aware Rajcoomar was “the reason the municipality has been well run and has a long track record of comparatively prudent financial management”.

So, suspicious ratepayers arrived at the start of his disciplinary hearing and petitioned for it to be open to the public.

They believe he is being sidelined so that the governing ANC can get its hands on R1.2-billion earmarked for flood-related disaster relief.

Advocate Saleem Khan SC is representing Rajcoomar and secured the interdict.

At the disciplinary hearing, when the public petitioned for access, the presiding officer said only local journalist Penny Fourie from Ballito’s Radio Life & Style could attend and make notes of the proceedings, but not record it or name witnesses.

“This is ratepayers’ money. It is a matter of public interest. We have an obligation to make this public. The problem is I am the only one allowed in,” Fourie said.

The radio station has limited coverage and Fourie isn’t the only journalist in town. So, she and ratepayers briefed Khan, who took the presiding officer’s decision on review to the Pietermaritzburg High Court. A ruling will be made in October.

A flawed process

With Fourie inside the meeting room, Rajcoomar’s disciplinary resumed earlier this month and Khan took issue with another matter, arguing that the council voting process to discipline Rajcoomar was flawed.

Councillors voted on motions over two days, on 7 June and 7 July, to decide whether to suspend Rajcoomar.

Not everyone voted. Khan says the municipality hasn’t been able to furnish records of the voting, which impinges on Rajcoomar’s right to “just administrative action”.

Khan also put in for a high court review of that process.

The presiding officer didn’t accept this and Khan applied for and secured the interdict. It effectively suspended the disciplinary action against Rajcoomar pending argument in court in November about the voting process. DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

DM168 front oage

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • André van Niekerk says:

    This is a ploy that has been used extensively by many municipalities, to get principled officials out of the way. It of course does not help that the public many times assumes an official is corrupt, when many times it is the other way around.
    What is worse, the politicians use council funds to pursue officials via legal heavy-weights, to pursue such officials, but the officials have to pay their own legal defence, even when charges are frivolous.
    This often leads to honest and experienced officials resigning, with a cloud of suspicion over their names and their integirty.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

X

This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.


Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Get DM168 delivered to your door

Subscribe to DM168 home delivery and get your favourite newspaper delivered every weekend.

Delivery is available in Gauteng, the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Eastern Cape.

Subscribe Now→