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Shocking report was kept secret

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All officials and councilors implicated in the report should be subjected to “corrective disciplinary processes”

IT REMAINS to be seen whether any steps will be taken against the former municipal manager of the Phokwane Municipality, Moeketsi Dichaba, in line with a damning and “strictly confidential” report that recommended that he should be criminally charged for gross financial misconduct.

Dichaba resigned from the municipality in 2014 and was appointed as HOD for the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison in 2017.

The report was commissioned by the Department of Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs (Coghsta) upon instruction of the former Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), Pravin Gordhan in 2014, following a complaint that was lodged by Vaalharts Afriforum, to investigate maladministration, corruption, non-compliance and malpractice at the Phokwane Municipality.

The allegations included the failure of the Phokwane Municipality to institute disciplinary proceedings against the former municipal manager, following allegations of corruption and dereliction of duties, failure to act on serious misconduct and non-compliance and failure to table the Auditor-General’s report as well as the mounting debt owed to the municipality by councilors.

Afriforum also reported the failure of the municipality to act on the illegal occupation of land, as well as the municipality’s use of non-Nersa approved tariff structures where residents were overcharged for electricity.

A team consisting of legal experts and officials who were experts on municipal compliance, was appointed to investigate the mayor, Speaker, councillors and municipal manager employed at the municipality at the time.

It recommended that the former municipal manager be criminally charged for gross financial misconduct for non-compliance with supply chain management processes and for contravening the Municipal Finance Management Act.

It also advised that steps be taken against the mayor for financial misconduct where project prices were escalated from R5 million to R19 million with regards to the 900-square-metre paving project in Tlhwahalang in Jan Kempdorp.

The team found that the former municipal manager should be held liable for financial misconduct while it recommended that a forensic investigation be conducted into the paving project.

There were further allegations regarding the involvement and partnership with the former municipal manager and the appointment of cronies, nepotism, poor financial management and failure to act on the Auditor-General’s report.

Several serious service delivery issues were reported by the Ganspan community as well as the Community Development Forum, representing the communities of Pampierstad, Mountain View, Phatshima and Sakhile.

The team also investigated the failure of the municipality to fulfill its obligations and urged for the allegations to be investigated by the Special Investigations Unit and/or the police where councilors should be charged for misconduct due to poor performance and neglect of duty.

It stated that all officials and councilors implicated in the report should be subjected to “corrective disciplinary processes” and that “all irregular, wasteful and unauthorised expenditure” be “properly determined and accordingly recovered”.

Chairperson of the Northern Cape Civics Organisation, Ross Henderson, questioned the secrecy surrounding the report that involved public funds.

“Three years later the findings have not seen the light of day. Instead of implementing the recommendations, the former municipal manager at the Phokwane Municipality has been promoted to a higher office into the post of HOD. It is clear that he is being protected and that there has been political intervention. We challenge the department to prove us otherwise.”

He added that time and money was wasted on the report that it was conveniently kept away from the public.

“This is while whistleblowers are being victimised. It is time for these officials to be personally held liable for the theft of state funds.”

Henderson stated that if Coghsta did not adhere to the findings of the report within the next month, it would face legal action.

Chairperson of Vaalharts Afriforum, Theo Joubert, yesterday indicated that they were still waiting for the report to be released.

“We have not received any feedback since reporting the matter.”

Cosatu’s provincial secretary, Anele Gxoyiya, confirmed that the federation has laid a complaint with the Hawks, who are still busy with investigations.

“The full extent of the charges will be made known upon completion of the investigation, although it amounts to millions of rands.

“We are still eagerly waiting for the findings of the Section 106 report at the Phokwane Municipality. The former MEC for Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs (Alvin Botes) was hell bent on hiding the report.”

He questioned why Dichaba was appointed as HOD as well as the unilateral agreement that resulted in the extension of his contract with government.

“The MEC for Coghsta instituted a Section 106 investigation in Phokwane in or around 2013/14 and the outcome of the investigation was presented to the MEC in March 2015, but he deliberately withheld it because it contained damning information regarding corruption.

Spokesperson for Coghsta, Xhanti Teki, said the MEC, Bentley Vass, was committed to ensuring that municipalities were governed without any elements of fraud and corruption.

“The MEC will call a special press briefing in due course to address matters relating to the investigation at the Phokwane Municipality.” The Phokwane Municipality referred all media enquiries to Coghsta.