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Municipality fears freezing suspended officials’ salaries

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Mayco members are steering clear of freezing the salaries for the suspended CFO and municipal manager.

Lydia Mahloko. Picture: Danie van der Lith

MEMBERS of the mayoral committee are steering clear of freezing the salaries of the suspended chief financial officer (CFO), Lydia Mahloko, and municipal manager, Goolam Akharwaray, at the Sol Plaatje Municipality for fear of facing further litigation.

This is while ratepayers are continuing to fork out towards the R2 million package for Akharwaray and the R1.9 million annual salary of Mahloko, who were placed on precautionary suspension with full benefits in July 2018.

Mahloko maintains that she was never involved in any form of misconduct while Akharwaray is also challenging the legality of the report.

ANC members of the mayoral committee held a press briefing yesterday, without executive mayor Patrick Mabilo, to dispel public perceptions that little to no action is being taken in dealing with the Section 106 investigation report into irregularities at the Sol Plaatje Municipality.

Members of the committee pointed out that it was the responsibility of the Department of Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs (Coghsta) to speed up the process to bring the report, which was released in October last year, to a conclusion.

The MEC for Coghsta, however, indicated yesterday that he was unimpressed with council’s lack of progress on implementing the findings of the report.

Recommendations include charging senior municipal executives for various acts of misconduct and for the flouting of supply chain management processes, including the purchase of the mayoral vehicle – an Audi Q7 that was purchased for R1.1 million.

According to its findings, the report advised that Mahloko be charged criminally while Akharawaray should be disciplined for failing to take steps against Mahloko.

The interim interdict that was obtained in November 2018 by Mahloko, sought to have the report declared null and void, where she applied to prevent any steps or findings from being implemented pending the finalisation of the court process.

The head of human settlements, Ronney Morwe, explained yesterday that the executive mayor was attending a summit.

“We have a responsibility to remain active and to continue with the work,” said Morwe.

He stated that as the matter was still sub judice, council was not able to make any pronouncements on the report.

“The Section 106 report has opened our eyes and we will need to investigate it in a holistic manner. It is not true that we are stalling the report, it is under discussion.

“The mayoral committee has sought legal advice and is ready to discuss the report.

“The challenge is that the court process has not been finalised. Quarantined areas relating to the CFO and municipal manager are out of bounds.”

Morwe indicated that other items contained in the report had been referred to various committees for discussion.

“The municipal committee on public accounts (MPAC) will investigate illegal financial misuse as well as deviations. The committee will meet again on October 4 to discuss the report. We will have to investigate the allegations even if it means consulting with financial experts.”

He acknowledged that it was costing the Sol Plaatje Municipality extra to pay salaries to both the suspended and acting officials.

“However, we do not wish to make hasty pronouncements on the suspended officials’ salaries, to avoid litigation to recover the funds. We do not wish to be seen to be in contempt of court. We must allow the law to take its course and cannot pre-empt the findings.”

Morwe pointed out that it was up to Coghsta, and not council, to speed up the finalisation of the report.

“Coghsta is the one who released the report.”

A member of the utility committee, Jozi Themba Gomba, stated that they would ensure that the report received the necessary attention from council.

A member of the committee on safety and security, Benjamin Plaatjie, indicated that they were prioritising the insourcing of services, such as security, to save costs and create job opportunities.

“We are examining discrepancies in supply chain management that were mentioned in the report as well as other incidences detected in audit outcomes.

“We do not want a re-occurrence of these deviations. Contracts must have value for money.”

Perdy Ronald van Wyk, who sits on the intergovernmental committee, stated that they had raised the importance of finalising the report with Coghsta.

“The report is hanging over our heads like a cloud and we want it to be dealt with as speedily as possible.”

The spokesperson for the Department of Coghsta, Xhanti Teki, stated that the MEC for Coghsta, Bently Vass, was not satisfied with the progress after the report was tabled in council.

“The Sol Plaatje Municipal Council must take the Section 106 to its logical conclusion. The MEC expects council to pronounce itself on the report, hence the dissatisfaction with the progress or lack thereof. The MEC has been very emphatic on the adherence of the recommendations.”

Teki pointed out that Coghsta did oppose the interdict that was obtained by the suspended CFO.

“We will defend any legal challenge of the report.”

He did not specify if any date was given as to when council should report back to Coghsta regarding progress on the report.