Probes into irregular spend at Western Cape municipalities, Newsline

Cape Town – Public accounts committees in municipalities across the province are investigating alleged irregular and unauthorised expenditure that amounts to more than R200 million.

This emerged in a written response to a question from GOOD Party’s Brett Herron to the MEC for Local Government Anton Bredell on the number of investigations before the province’s 30 Municipal Public Accounts Committees (MPACs).

The chairperson of Knysna Municipality’s MPAC, Ian Uys, resigned just two months into his role, in September, citing corruption and non-compliance from fellow members in the council. In his response, Bredell said: “There are currently a total of 258 cases before MPACs, politicians are implicated in a total of four cases (and) municipal officials are implicated in a total of 254 cases.”

“The total cost for all municipalities is currently R229.9 million.”

By the time of the response, Bredell’s office had not received any feedback from City of Cape Town, Kannaland or Laingsberg on whether they had any cases currently being probed by their respective MPACs.

The Knysna Municipality accounts for R143.1m stemming from a total nine investigations that were before its MPAC by October 16. This included one investigation into irregular expenditure stemming from the 2013/14 financial year and six irregular expenditures from 2018/19 year and two contracts.

All these investigations implicated municipal officials.

The municipality has been at the centre of a slew of investigations for fraud and corruption and recently came under fire for, yet again, writing off irregular expenditure amounting to more than R90m. Just last month, the municipality’s chief financial officer, Mbulelo Memani resigned despite calls from the Knysna Rate Payers Association for him to be investigated.

The Bitou Municipality, whose MPAC has 213 cases amounting to R37.7m has been at loggerheads with the Plettenberg Ratepayers’ Association which has levelled allegations of irregular expenditure from the council. The association went as far as approaching the Western Cape High Court for a declaratory order to stop the Mayor Peter Lobese from leasing a new vehicle that would cost the municipality over R700 000.

The organisation has also questioned why the municipality had spent R2.1m in legal services from six firms based in the Eastern Cape and requested that the council’s MPAC look into the matter.

“We have no faith in the effectiveness of MPAC, there here never seems to be any feedback from the committee on any of the matters put before them,” said the organisation’s Peter Gaylard.

“Nothing appears to happen at that level. We are particularly paying close attention to the forensic report and the implementation of its recommendation. The municipality said they had an action plan but nothing has been put into motion as yet, so we are keeping a close eye on that.

“Irregular expenditure is a growing concern, particularly around these small contracts where the tender processes are not exactly transparent.”

Another municipality that has racked up R38.4m for alleged unauthorised and wasteful expenditure is the Central Karoo District Municipality which has three cases that are currently being investigated by external service providers appointed by the municipal council and are yet to appear before its MPAC.

Cape Argus