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NC community demands release of corruption report

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Community members believe that the tabling of the report is purposefully being stalled to protect high-ranking municipal officials

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COMMUNITY members in Colesberg are growing impatient and angry over delays in the release of an investigation report regarding allegations of corruption at Umsobomvu Local Municipality.

Members of the Umsobomvu Community Forum stated that the forensic investigation started on January 5 and should have been completed by January 22.

“An undertaking was made that the premier, Dr Zamani Saul, or a representative from the Department of Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs (Coghsta) would present the findings on March 29,” the forum members said.

“About 500 community members waited for two hours in the field on Monday but no one arrived or offered any apologies for their absence. We are all very angry because It appears as if decisive action is only taken if we start rioting like hooligans.”

The members believed that the tabling of the report was purposefully being stalled to protect high-ranking municipal officials.

“We suspect that the report contains damning findings and that officials do not wish to be exposed. We do not want the same result as what happened at Sol Plaatje Municipality and Phokwane Municipality, where officials implicated in serious wrongdoing in Section 106 reports were never punished but were instead given promotions in government.”

The Umsobomvu Municipality meanwhile advised the community that the toilet upgrading project and road paving project in Madikane and Qilo streets could not continue due to “high levels of intimidation” and the destruction of the contractor’s assets.

“It is with great pain and disappointment that the municipality is finding it extremely difficult to implement these projects for the benefit of the community. The same community members are damaging the equipment.”

It was indicated that contractors had left the site, where the municipality has to bear some of the standing costs.

The community was advised that this may lead to the municipality losing all the funding for these projects.

Community members had objected to the alleged recruitment of family members and friends of an ANC councillor on the road paving project.

The spokesperson for Umsobomvu Municipality, Siyabulela Phololo, said yesterday that the contractor, Zandisile Mzibenzi, who was appointed for the R12.7 million road paving project, had left the site after his machinery and containers were set alight.

“A case of arson and trespassing was opened and the contractor vacated the site in the interests of his safety and that of his property,” said Phololo.

He indicated that he was in the process of setting up the site about three weeks ago and that no work had started.

“We are hoping to reach an amicable solution so that the work can start. The project was funded through the Municipal Infrastructure Grant and if we cannot account for these funds by the set deadline, the funds will have to be surrendered back to Treasury.”

Phololo explained that once the money was returned, the community would have to wait until next year before council could apply for funding.

“The community has been crying for years for the roads to be paved and if we lose the funds it will take a long time before it will be allocated to the municipality.”

He said that it was a “blatant lie” that family and friends of a councillor had been recruited on the road paving project.

“If the community can provide us with the names of the beneficiaries we can investigate. A local project steering committee was appointed to recruit the workers.”

Phololo stated that the sewage project to upgrade the toilets, which was awarded to the contractor Faku Mpunzi, was almost complete.

“The project is being conducted in two phases. The first phase to convert the toilets into waterborne systems at a cost of R9.9 million is complete, while the second phase of R11.5 million is almost completed.”

Phololo added that they were still waiting for a date for the tabling of the investigation report.

“The report was commissioned by Coghsta and the Premier’s Office and they must take us through the findings. We are also eager for the report to be released so they can clear out a number of issues.”

The communications manager at Coghsta, Lerato Khunou, said the investigation report was complete and ready for presentation by the MEC for Coghsta to the municipal council that would implement the recommendations.

“A suitable date is being canvassed by council. The department believes in transparency and ethical governance. It will therefore act responsibly in presenting and monitoring the implementation of the report finding. This will be done without fear, favour or prejudice,” said Khunou.

She explained that the investigation commenced on January 4 and ended on-site on January 22.

“It was reported to the municipal council and the Umsobomvu Community Forum that external institutions had to be consulted for further verification and as a result the investigation team was granted a deadline until March 29.”

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