GEORGE NEWS - It seems George Municipality is again suffering from a severe bout of suspension fever - this time Municipal Manager Trevor Botha and Director of Protection Services Steven Erasmus are on the receiving end of a possible time out.
The Portfolio Councillor of Protection Services, Cecil Noble, brought various allegations to the attention of Speaker Gerrit Pretorius and Mayor Melvin Naik, whereafter it served in the confidential papers at last week's council meeting.
Both Botha and Erasmus received their letters last Friday, the very same day that George traffic chief Donovan Saptoe was informed of his suspension from 1 November until further notice. (Read the article elsewhere on this page)
Botha and Erasmus have been given until tomorrow, Friday 8 November, to provide reasons why they should not be suspended. Council is considering their suspension as a precautionary measure for the duration of an investigation into alleged financial misconduct and/or transgressions of the municipality's disciplinary code. According to information, the MEC for Local Goverment, Anton Bredell, will also consider their representations, whereafter Council will deliberate the matter.
The list is long
The allegations include financial misconduct amounting to R2,3-million through the use of national grant funds to fund the irregular appointment of staff members (by Erasmus) since the beginning of July. It is alleged that Erasmus has been involved in covering up taxi permit irregularities where a director of George Link is implicated.
Traffic chief Donovan Saptoe, who is currently suspended from his duties, was the whistle blower in this matter (George Herald, 13 June). Saptoe made an affidavit at the George police station, stating his concern about a five-year license permit for charter services, issued to the George Link director.
The allegations against Erasmus also suggest that financial misconduct took place during Saptoe's disciplinary hearing, causing the municipality to incur fruitless and wasteful expenditure through the payment and services of two advocates to see the matter through, instead of applying the provisions within a "collective agreement".
It is also alleged that grievances relating to victimisation, harassment and abuse of office levelled against Erasmus by some staff, have remained unsolved.
The allegations against Botha relate to his alleged failure to investigate the irregular appointment of temporary staff, as well as failure to investigate and resolve grievances against Erasmus, including failure to act in terms of the Protected Disclosure Act and Council's anti-fraud and corruption policy. The allegation of financial misconduct pertaining to Saptoe's disciplinary hearing also appears on Botha's list.
An insider who wishes to stay anonymous, said the motives of these allegations are being questioned. "Some people will do anything in their power to keep the heat from themselves and the only way they can do that is to shift the focus on others." Another source revealed that it is highly likely that these matters may end up in court if one of these senior officials has to resign as a result of false allegations and blatant lying by others in an effort to oust them from their posts.
Responding to a request for comment, Noble said he can't sweep this type of information - serious allegations involving senior officials - under the rug. "It is my duty as a councillor to bring such information to the attention of relevant stakeholders. I am acting in the best interest of other officials, the community and the residents of George."
Comment from Municipal Manager Trevor Botha:
The Municipal Manager and the Director: Protection Services were served with notices and the unfounded and baseless allegations will be answered comprehensively.
Section 171(4)(a) of the Local Government: Municipal Finance Management Act (No.56 of 2003 ) stipulates very clearly that a municipality must investigate allegations of financial misconduct against the accounting officer, the chief financial officer, a senior manager or other official of the municipality UNLESS THOSE ALLEGATIONS ARE FRIVOLOUS, VEXATIOUS, SPECULATIVE OR OBVIOUSLY UNFOUNDED. In accordance with this legislation it is the duty of the authority to apply its mind and assess whether the allegations is frivolous and devoid of fact or vexatious, speculative and or unfounded before any action is instituted.
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