GEORGE NEWS - Roslyn Saptoe's removal from a seat in the municipal external audit committee did not sit well with all folks in Council. The ANC and PBI took exception to a statement last week by Mayor Leon van Wyk that the decision was supported by all parties. The item was dealt with as confidential during a special council meeting on Friday 31 July.
ANC's Nomawethu Jantjies-Gushman said they have asked serious questions about Saptoe's suspension. "Why now in two years of her service in the Audit committee? Did she do anything or show any act or behaviour that showed conflict of interest? Is this not but just another racial witch hunt on the only black professional on the audit committee?"
Jantjies-Gushman said they have also asked for the management report from the Auditor General (AG). "As custodians, the ANC cannot find ourselves talking against it, but also made it clear that if they just used the name of the AG to fulfil their dirty agenda... we are firmly standing against that and their clear racial discrimination," she said.
"For Leon Van Wyk to turn around and spread blue lies about us being in agreement with them is stupid and nonsense."
In his response to this attack, Van Wyk said Council made the responsible decision. "The Auditor-General in its audit finding noted that actions had not been taken to mitigate the threat to the independence of the audit committee member, i.e. not independent in appearance. The council therefore needed to take action to ensure there would not be another audit finding. Council has the responsibility to act in the interests of George Municipality and its citizens in ensuring clean governance."
The PBI wants to put it on record that they did not participate in the discussion of the item. "Therefore, we do not support the decision to remove Ms Saptoe," reads a press statement by the party.
"The leader of the PBI did not attend the meeting due to a funeral service and our other council member, Patrick Buys, made it clear that he did not receive an agenda. Councillor Leon van Wyk has no mandate to issue a statement on behalf of the PBI on our party's position on this matter. His statement is riddled with lies and untruths."
Claire Kleinhans, general secretary of the PBI, said their party is directly opposed to the DA's attack on coloured and black professionals in the George Municipality. "There is a constant effort to get rid of them under the guise of investigations. We are amazed that the appointment of Mrs Saptoe has only been pointed out as a conflict of interest two years later.
"We are on record as having lodged a serious objection against a former DA chief whip [Flip de Swardt] on the audit committee. We are strongly convinced that his presence is a conflict of interest, but the DA has ignored our persistent objections."
Kleinhans said the PBI will request the Speaker to investigate the "false media statement" of Van Wyk and take appropriate steps. At the time of going to press on Wednesday the Speaker's office had not receive such a request from the PBI.
Van Wyk said he would not be responding to the PBI's media statement.
In a letter to George Herald, Saptoe expressed her displeasure with last week's article (Council cleans house for AG, p. 3), which she says fails to mention other sections of her written complaint to the mayor. She said the municipality did not respond to a serious allegation against the chairperson of the audit committee, Dr Adele Potgieter.
"[She] exceeded her term of office as per the charter, which ended in April 2019, resulting in irregular expenditure for the municipality and possible unlawful actions. The selective application by Council of the audit charter to dismiss me, but to turn a blind eye on the audit committee chairperson complaints is a case in point," reads the letter.
Saptoe described Council's action as "humiliating" and "damaging to [her] reputation as a professional person".
Asked for comment, municipal spokesperson Chantel Edwards-Klose said the municipality has provided a response on this matter and will not enter into dialogue via the media.
Roslyn Saptoe's letter to George Herald
Re : Council cleans house
Your heading is incorrect implying I am responsible for George municipality not receiving a clean audit.
One would expect an unbiased approach to verify the facts. Council considered the possible independence threat in 2018, after the AG finding, in October 2019 and found no independence threat with my membership.
Your article regarding the complaint I lodged as audit committee member mentions the complaint in specifics, but fails to mention other sections of the complaint dealing with, amongst others, the fact that the chairperson, Dr Adele Potgieter, exceeded her term of office as per the charter, which ended in April 2019, resulting in irregular expenditure for the municipality and possible unlawful actions. The municipality did not respond to that serious allegations and neither responded to the complaint of intimidation, victimisation and racism.
The selective application by council of the audit charter to dismiss me, but to turn a blind eye on the audit committee chairperson complaints is a case in point. Council’s assessment of the independence relationship is based on the AG and no further expert opinions from either National Treasury or Legal opinions regarding this matter was taken.
Council's action is humiliating and damaging to my reputation as a professional person. How this has unfolded is clearly meant to destroy my reputation and economic wellbeing to protect a privilege few.
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