‘They never let me explain,’ says man named in Rand West irregularity

2018-12-06 10:17

A former Westonaria municipal manager, who was implicated in irregular expenditure incurred by Rand West City municipality two years ago, has spoken out.

Thabo Ndlovu, who is currently a municipal manager at Bitou municipality in the Western Cape, claims that Rand West City municipal public accounts committee (Mpac), an oversight structure within council, has yet to offer him an opportunity to present his side of the story.

This came after Rand West City municipal spokesperson Tshidiso Tlharipe indicated to City Press last week that the municipality had noted recommendations contained in the Mpac report which fingered Ndlovu and former Westonaria chief financial officer Vincent Mkhefa of alleged wrongdoing.

Read: R200m written off as another Gauteng municipality’s finances collapse

At the time, Tlharipe said the municipality had “instituted internal process to implement the recommendations”.

Rand West City is an amalgamation of the former Randfontein and Westonaria municipalities, and was created after the 2016 local government elections.

Mkhefa is currently the chief financial officer of Nketoana local municipality in the Free State.

The Mpac report was tabled before council in June this year.

It recommended that criminal charges be laid against Ndlovu for “his involvement in the Sakhingomso transaction” and against Mkhefa for not “disclosing that he was the director of Sakhingomso”.

Sakhingomso was among the service providers listed in the Mpac report for allegedly having scored R500 000 in irregular contracts during the 2016/17 financial year.

In an email sent to City Press, Ndlovu said he contacted Rand West City executive mayor Mzi Khumalo on Friday last week after he saw the City Press article.

He said Khumalo asked the Mpac chairperson to convene an urgent meeting so he could be given an opportunity to present his side of the story.

A special Mpac meeting, he said, was scheduled to take place on Tuesday but was postponed.

City Press has seen a notice announcing the postponement of the meeting.

Khumalo confirmed that he had been contacted by Ndlovu but referred details of the postponement to Mpac.

Mpac manager Mokhufi Mahuma referred questions to Tlharipe.

Tlharipe said the meeting was postponed because official councillors were not available.

“The Mpac chairperson will seek to establish the availability of Mpac committee members and will, on the basis of their availability, set a new date for the meeting,” Tlharipe said.

Ndlovu said he had spoken to Khumalo again, complaining about the postponement.

“Once again I am not being given an opportunity to explain myself, which is unfair, but the impression being created in the public is that I am going to be charged as if there is prima facie evidence that I have been involved in a criminal activity,” Ndlovu said.

Ndlovu said when Sakhingomso was awarded a contract by the municipality, he was the municipal manager of Westonaria.

However, he said Sakhingomso was a project that was implemented through a partnership between the municipality, Sibanye Gold mining company and a local cooperative made up mainly of women.

He said the project was part of a social labour plan of Sibanye Gold and its purpose was to manufacture personal protective clothing.

“Since the municipality was part of the partnership, it made a commitment that it will buy some of its personal protective clothing needs from this cooperative. Sibanye Gold provided the facility from where the cooperative was to operate and also provided training and mentoring for the cooperative.”

He said in order to ensure that proper financial management was adhered to, the three partners agreed that each partner would nominate a person who would be designated as the director for Sakhingomso until the organisation could stand on its own.

“The aim was to make sure that the mining company and the municipality have proper oversight on how the funds of Sakhingomso are used. Since it has happened before that co-op members will use funds for their personal gain instead of ensuring the sustainability and viability of the project,” Ndlovu said.

He said at the time the municipality was represented by Mkhefa.

Ndlovu said Mkhefa was registered as the director of Sakhingomso.

He said the founding documents of Sakhingomso stated that the directors were not going to benefit personally.

During the 2015/16 financial year, he said the municipality bought personal protective clothing from Sakhingomso as per the commitment it made.

“This was also in support of the municipality’s efforts to support local economic development and increase the local procurement spent in favour of local companies and emerging business entities. Sibanye Gold appointed StichWise, an established company that manufactures personal protective clothing to mentor the co-op. I seem to remember that some of the personal protective clothing that Sakhingomso supplied, they bought it from StichWise,” he said.

He said the designation of Mkhefa as the director of Sakhingomso was above board, and because of his knowledge as the accounting officer.

“His appointment has never been a secret because there is no way that it could have been hidden since the municipality checked every year if there are officials that have done business with the municipality, which is not allowed,” Ndlovu said.

However, he said Mkhefa’s appointment to the directorship position was anonymously reported to police and the case was investigated in 2016 but nothing came out of.

“I also during that time submitted an affidavit to the South African Police Service (SAPS). In 2017 and 2018, I spoke to the executive mayor, Mzi Khumalo, via telephone about this matter and after I explained to him what happened, I even offer to attend an Mpac meeting at my own cost so that I can explain on record in the Mpac meeting. But I was never invited by either the executive mayor or the Mpac chairperson. The Rand West City Local Municipality, could have clarified the facts around this matter by inviting the chief financial officer and I to come explain ourselves. They could also have got a copy of the affidavit I submitted to SAPS. They could have looked at the books of Sakhingomso and they could have contacted Sibanye Gold to confirm the partnership and how it was structured, which led to the chief financial officer Mr Mkhefa being part of the directors of Sakhingomso,” Ndlovu said.

He said he had never benefited from the Sakhingomso transaction.

Mkhefa said: “It is unfortunate that Mpac did not take up the offer from Ndlovu that he be given an opportunity to present in the Mpac on allegations against us … The Mpac cannot conclude its investigation without providing all the implicated individuals with the opportunity to respond to the allegations.”

Msindisi Fengu
City Press
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December 8 2019