Sol Plaatje Municipality chief financial officer Lydia Mahloko and municipal manager Goolam Akharwaray have been notified to return to work next week, three years after they were placed on precautionary suspension.
SOL PLAATJE Municipality chief financial officer (CFO) Lydia Mahloko has yet to accept or decline an invitation to return to her post..
Council decided to reinstate Mahloko, as well as municipal manager Goolam Akharwaray, following a settlement agreement that was reached in the Northern Cape High Court on Monday.
Mahloko and Akharwaray, who were placed on precautionary suspension three years ago, applied for an interdict to prevent the recommendations of the section 106 investigation report into irregularities at Sol Plaatje Municipality, which was released in 2018, from being implemented.
The officials were placed on precautionary suspension in 2018 following a public outcry over high electricity prices and a call for municipal officials to step down.
According to the settlement agreement, the application was withdrawn, while “no reliance may be placed on the report”.
Mahloko said on Thursday that she would provide a response to the municipality by Monday.
“The date of my return to office next week was given at short notice, where I was informed of the council resolution on Thursday, August 19. I have not had sufficient time to consider all my options,” said Mahloko.
She pointed out that she would not return if there were still unresolved issues.
“I was put through a lot of emotional and psychological torment when I was placed on precautionary suspension. I almost lost my life and my family went through a lot of trauma. I also need to take care of my health and mental wellness. I do not want to be subjected to any more backlash from the community, even though the allegations against me were unsubstantiated and unfounded.”
Mahloko dismissed public perception that she was “being let off the hook scot-free” following allegations of fraud and corruption.
“I have not been charged and if there was any shred of evidence against me, I would have been in jail by now. The allegations are based on corridor talk, while the municipality obtained three consecutive unqualified audits when I was the CFO, which means the municipality’s finances were sound.”
She added that it would also be a mammoth task to “catch up” after being away from her office for the past three years.
“I will have to update myself on three years of council agendas, over 3,000 council resolutions, recordings and minutes and financial reports. It will take me between three to six months to familiarise myself with what has happened in council during my absence. It will not be an easy task. ”
Mahloko stated that the municipality’s financial statements had to be signed off at the end of the month for scrutiny by the auditor-general.
“The acting officials should account for the current financial year and be held responsible for any transgressions or omissions that may have taken place during their tenure. I still need to meet with divisional heads, obtain information from asset management and supply chain management and make revenue projections for the past three years in order to kickstart the Integrated Development Programme for 2022. I cannot be held accountable for what happened while I was not in office.”
Mahloko pointed out that she would also have to adjust to the Covid-19 regulations at her workplace.
She added that she would consider a settlement if she decided not return as CFO.
“I am a permanent employee of the organisation and I am willing to reach an amicable agreement that will be in the best interests of the municipality. Should I decide not to return to the municipality, the new council will appoint a new CFO.”
Akharwaray’s five-year contract is expected to come to an end in 2022. He could not be reached for comment.
The Northern Cape Department of Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs (Coghsta), which commissioned the section 106 report, in response to allegations of irregularities, fruitless and wasteful expenditure at Sol Plaatje Municipality, has pointed out that no one had been vindicated through the court application.
Coghsta spokesperson Lerato Khunou explained that the court had not adjudicated on the merits of the case.
“Therefore, no one was vindicated. Akharwaray and Mahloko were placed on precautionary suspension by Sol Plaatje Municipality as the employer before the commencement of the section 106 investigation,” said Khunou.