Northern Cape mayor and councillors must be investigated: public protector
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has directed the Northern Cape MEC for co-operative governance, human settlements and traditional affairs to appoint a person or a committee to conduct an investigation into councillors and mayor of the Hantam local municipality for an alleged breach of the code of conduct.
Mkhwebane and her deputy Kholeka Gcaleka released 14 reports on Wednesday, including one on ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and another on UDM leader Bantu Holomisa and the PIC.
“The MEC in the province is to appoint a person or committee in terms of item 14(4) of the code of conduct for councillors, to investigate whether the mayor and the councillors breached the code of conduct and, if so, to take action as contemplated in item 14(2) against them,” said Mkhwebane.
In addition, Mkhwebane directed the municipal manager to take appropriate steps in terms of the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) to recover the travel and subsistence 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. I look forward to a constructive engagement with these findings from all the implicated parties,” she said.
The public protector stated that in a December 2017 complaint, Dr Isak Fritz alleged that the mayor and the councillors misappropriated public funds by utilising the subsistence and travel (S&T) allowances that were paid for official purposes to attend their party’s (ANC) provincial conference.
Mkhwebane said according to Fritz, the mayor and councillors were invited to a provincial social development department workshop as part of its social relief programme. The workshop was scheduled take place between May 10 and 15 2015 in Colesberg.
The dates of the workshop coincided with those of the ANC conference.
Mkhwebane stated that Fritz further alleged that the workshop the mayor and councillors were invited to did not take place, but instead the mayor and the councillors attended the ANC conference.
“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.”
She said she found that the mayor and councillors 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. She said the mayor and two other councillors were paid R2,700 each, while another councillor was paid R6,324.32.
“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 the municipality and failed to reimburse the municipality for the amount it paid them or a portion thereof.”
She said 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.
“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,” she said.
Mkhwebane said adverse findings are meant to fix any gaps in the system so that we avoid a recurrence in the future.
“Remedial action on the other hand is meant to bring the complainant as close as possible to where they would have been, had it not been for the maladministration, the improper conduct and the prejudice. This is critical because this institution is one of the most cost-effective ways of accessing justice.”