GEORGE NEWS - A forensic investigation launched by Local Government MEC, Anton Bredell, has erupted in a full scale blow-up between Minister Bredell and George Municipal Manager, Trevor Botha.
Two investigators from the forensic industry have been appointed by the MEC to investigate multiple allegations of fraud, corruption, maladministration and serious malpractice at the municipality.
In response to the announcement of the investigation, Botha lashed out saying that it appears to be a demonstration of political retaliation.
Botha said ever since he reported allegations of corruption regarding a R350-million Old Mutual investment, "a barrage of spurious trumped up and unsubstantiated allegations have since been levelled against the municipal manager and the mayor". The investment has led to the sacking of the former CFO Keith Jordaan.
Head of Local Government, Graham Paulse, said Bredell has directed "numerous letters" to the George Municipality in the last year, relating to the alleged fraud and other issues at the municipality*. "After objectively assessing all relevant information at his disposal, he was of the opinion that certain allegations require further investigation," said Paulse. He confirmed that Bredell began the process to appoint designated investigators in July. The MEC vowed to leave no stone unturned.
George Municipality has been the target of two investigations by the Commercial Crime Investigation Unit of the police (Hawks) - in July this year and in April 2018. The first case has been concluded and is in the hands of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), while the second investigation is still underway.
"This investigation [by Bredell] is a separate investigative process from the Hawks' investigation," said Paulse.
In two media statements this week, Bredell said the investigation will focus on - among other matters - the George Integrated Public Transport Network (GIPTN) and administrative issues and speaks to matters of supply chain management, contract management and appointments of officials. "No stone will be left unturned," he said. "We will see this through to the end and we hope to have the matter concluded as soon as possible."
Both George Mayor Melvin Naik and Botha issued press statements in reaction to Bredell's announcement. Naik welcomed any investigation into maladministration and said they will work with the department in their investigation. He said the allegations are the very same that were made in April 2018.
In his response Botha also questioned the timing and motive of Bredell's investigation, and said the fact that Bredell considered it necessary to announce his intention through the media is questionable.
"A letter to this effect was sent to the Speaker of the Municipality on the same day of Bredell's media statement," said Botha. He said his report on the Old Mutual investment did not elicit the same response and actions currently being taken by Bredell against the municipality. "It is unbelievable to note that the Old Mutual corruption case does not form part of the focus of Bredell's probe," said Botha.
"The ruthless subversion to publicly denounce the George Municipality based on unsubstantiated hearsay in the media, seems to support the view that their unsurpassable (sic), selective, 'probing' into allegations against certain senior officials appears to be a demonstration of political retaliation."
* The George Herald is in possession of a letter (dated 20 March 2019) in which Bredell urgently requests Speaker Gerrit Pretorius to provide his office with written comments on a number of allegations, including interference of a specific councillor in the appointment of personnel in the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) at the municipality, and a list of municipal councillors linked to EPWP appointments. The alleged irregular appointment of one of the municipal directors has also been questioned. In his response to questions from the George Herald, Pretorius confirmed that comprehensive feedback was sent to Bredell. Asked why these issues were never raised in Council, Pretorius said, "Allegations can hardly be taken to the Council as an item".
Read previous articles:
- Minister responds to statement by Municipal Manager
- Municipal Manager responds to investigation report
- Mayor welcomes investigation, Municipal Manager questions motives
- Bredell orders investigation into George Municipality
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