Home News NC mayor, councillors used public funds to attend ANC conference – protector

NC mayor, councillors used public funds to attend ANC conference – protector

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According to the report the Hantam Local Municipality needs to recover the travel and subsistence allowances that were paid to the mayor and three councillors to attend an ANC provincial conference in May 2017.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. File image

PUBLIC Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has directed the municipal manager of the Hantam Local Municipality to recover the travel and subsistence allowances that were paid to the mayor and three councillors to attend an ANC provincial conference in May 2017.

The report on the Hantam Municipality is one of several findings released during a virtual media briefing in Pretoria on Wednesday afternoon as part of the public protector’s quarterly media briefing for the 2020/21 financial year.

Mkhwebane released the findings of 14 reports, which covered various themes including irregular staff appointments, the plight of refugees, whistle-blower victimisation, abuse of public resources and executive ethics.

Three of the 14 reports related to incidents reported to the public protector in the Northern Cape, including Van Der Steen v Dawid Kruiper Local Municipality, Smith v Kai! Garib Local Municipality and Fritz v Hantam Local Municipality.

In the report regarding the Hantam Municipality, Mkhwebane investigated allegations of improper conduct and maladministration by the mayor, Mr R Swartz and councillors H De Wee, G Gous and K Alexander relating to travel and subsistence allowances paid to them in May 2017.

“In a December 2017 complaint, Dr Isak Fritz alleged that the mayor and the councillors misappropriated public funds by utilising the travel and subsistence (S&T) allowances that were paid to them for official purposes to attend the provincial conference of the ANC.

“According to Dr Fritz, the mayor and councillors were invited to a provincial Social Development Department workshop on its Social Relief Programme. The workshop was scheduled to take place between May 10 and 15, 2017 in Colesberg. The dates of the workshop coincided with those of the ANC conference. Dr Fritz further alleged that the workshop that the mayor and councillors were invited to, didn’t take place. The mayor and the councillors attended the ANC conference instead before making their way home.”

Mkhwebane added that it was Dr Fritz’s contention that the mayor and the councillors attended the ANC conference at the expense of ratepayers under the pretext of attending the workshop.

“Upon analysing the complaint, I decided to whittle down the investigation to two issues. The one was whether the mayor and the councillors acted in accordance with the relevant laws and prescripts regulating S&T allowances the municipality paid in respect of the trip they undertook to Colesberg in May 2017.

“The other issue was whether their conduct was improper, constituted maladministration and resulted in the misappropriation of public funds.”

The public protector found that mayor Swartz and councillors De Wee, Gous and Alexander did not act in accordance with the relevant laws and prescripts regulating S&T allowances the municipality paid in respect of their trip to Colesberg.

“Mayor Swartz and councillors Gous and Alexander were paid R2,700 each while Councillor De Wee was paid R6,324.32,” she said in her report.

“They did not inform the acting municipal manager about the cancellation of the workshop. They also attended the ANC conference whilst in Colesberg at the expense of and failed to reimburse the municipality for the amount it paid them or a portion thereof.”

Mkhwebane stated that their conduct was improper, constituted maladministration and resulted in the misappropriation of public funds, fruitless and wasteful expenditure as contemplated in the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA).

“It may also constitute a breach of the code of conduct contemplated in the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act. This conduct constitutes improper conduct as envisaged in the Constitution and maladministration as contemplated in the Public Protector Act.”

To remedy this conduct, Mkhwebane directed the MEC for Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs in the Province to appoint a person or committee in terms of the Code of Conduct for Councillors to investigate whether the mayor and the councillors had breached the code of conduct and if so to take action against them.

“In addition, I direct the municipal manager to take appropriate steps in terms of the MFMA to recover the S&T allowance the municipality paid to the mayor and the councillors for the period May 11 to 14, 2017.

“Both these directives must be effected within 60 business days from the date of this report.”

The second report relating to the Northern Cape was Van der Steen v Dawid Kruiper Local Municipality, where the public protector investigated allegations of improper conduct and maladministration relating to the appointment of staff by the Dawid Kruiper Municipality in 2016. This followed a complaint in November 2016 from Mr PT van der Steen, a member of the municipal council.

“He alleged that the municipality appointed Mr SP May, Ms R George, Mr DZ Ntlanganiso and Mr Desmond van Wyk in 2016 without the relevant posts being advertised and interviews held.”

Mkhwebane said that, in essence, Van der Steen had alleged that the appointments were not in accordance with the relevant laws and prescripts regulating the appointment of staff of the municipality and that the conduct of the municipality in this regard was improper, constituted maladministration and resulted in irregular expenditure.

“After analysing the complaint, I decided to investigate whether the temporary appointments of Mr SP May, Ms R George, and Mr DZ Ntlanganiso by the municipality in 2016 were in accordance with the relevant laws and prescripts regulating the recruitment and selection of staff of the municipality; and if not, whether the conduct of the municipality was improper, constituted maladministration and resulted in irregular expenditure.”

Mkhwebane found all the allegations to be substantiated. “The vacant positions were not advertised and the recruitment and selection process prescribed by the policy was not followed. The remuneration paid to May, Ntlanganiso and George from the date of their appointment accordingly constitutes irregular expenditure, as contemplated by the MFMA.”

To remedy this improper conduct and maladministration, she directed the municipal manager to take appropriate steps in respect of disciplinary action against the officials involved in the irregular appointments of May, Ntlanganiso and George within 30 business days from the date of her report.

“The municipal manager must also institute proceedings for the judicial review of the irregular appointment of May, Ntlanganiso and George, in terms of relevant prescripts within 30 business days from the date of my report.”

The third report relating to the Northern Cape was Smith v Kai! Garib Local Municipality where Mkhwebane investigated allegations of improper conduct and maladministration in relation to the appointment of Willem Rhyn as Water Process Controller Class I by the Kai! Garib Municipality.

“The investigation followed a July 2016 complaint by Mr AR Smith, who alleged improper conduct and maladministration by the municipality in relation to the appointment of Willem Rhyn as Water Process Controller Class I.”

Following an analysis of the complaint, Mkhwebane looked into whether the temporary appointment of Rhyn by the municipality with effect from July 1, 2016 to February 28, 2017 was in accordance with the relevant laws and prescripts regulating the recruitment and selection of staff of the municipality; and if not, whether the conduct of the municipality was improper, constitutes maladministration and resulted in irregular expenditure.

“I also investigated whether the permanent appointment of Rhyn by the municipality with effect from March 1, 2017 was in accordance with the relevant laws and prescripts and if not, whether the conduct of the municipality was improper, constituted maladministration and resulted in irregular expenditure.

“I found that all of the allegations were substantiated. To remedy this improper conduct and maladministration, I direct the municipal manager to take appropriate steps in respect of disciplinary action against the officials that were involved in the irregular appointment of Rhyn in terms of the disciplinary procedures of the municipality within 60 business days from the date of my report.

“The municipal manager must further institute proceedings for the judicial review of the irregular appointment of Mr Rhyn within 60 business days from the date of my report.”