A long-awaited Forensic Investigation Report conducted under the auspices of the Western Cape Minister of Local Government, Anton Bredell, in terms of Section 106 of the Systems Act has finally been served on the Bitou Executive Mayor, Peter Lobese and will be made public by the Minister’s office today.
by Bill Nel – DA PR Councillor in Bitou
The report, which was already served during the second week of December 2019, revealed the details of a money-laundering scheme conducted from the office of the Executive Mayor to siphon vast sums of money from the Municipal coffers under the guise of “Grants in Aide” to NGO’s involved in community work among the poor and needy. Ghost companies who performed no actual services were also uncovered during the investigation.
According to the report, the Mayor’s brother-in-law, who earns a top salary as the Mayor’s official political advisor, lives a lavish lifestyle at the expense of the ratepayers. Although he is the political advisor to the Mayor, he occupies the official mayoral residence without paying a sent rental while the Mayor lives in Kwanokuthula spending up to R180 000 per month of ratepayer money to procure personal security.
The report further found that he was extorting money in the form of donations under false pretenses from business owners and treating fellow mayoral and senior administrative staff members to regular free lunches accompanied by copious amounts of liquor. Restaurant owners who rent municipal premises were intimidated to the point where bills exceeded R100 000 and were eventually settled by the municipality with ratepayers’ money.
The report also reveals that most members of the Mayor’s substantial political office staff are underqualified for their positions, some even without secondary school education. Most of these appointees were selected without following the prescribed recruitment procedures.
The report is particularly damming when it comes to the selection and appointment of senior administrative staff members, several of whom earn salaries in the order of R1 million per annum. Positions such as that of the Municipal Manager, the CFO and the dismissed head of the Corporate Services Directorate were made with direct interference by the Mayor and his ANC Mayoral Committee members.
Another startling fact uncovered by the forensic investigators is that many of the ANC and AUF politicians, as well as senior staff members like the Municipal Manager and CFO, did not declare their personal business interests as prescribed by law. In this regard, the Mayor himself did not declare his personal interest in a funeral business.
The mandate of the forensic investigators, who conducted the investigation, expired in March 2019 leaving no time to investigate compelling evidence of further malfeasance particularly concerning large contract awards without following prescribed procurement procedures. Of concern is the manipulation of tender closure dates and the calling of further tenders to allow preferred unsuccessful bidders a second chance.
The DA hopes that the report recommendations including criminal charges and disciplinary actions will be followed through. The problem, however, is that the Speaker and MM who by law must spearhead these actions are implicated in the report. We will continue to keep a close eye on this matter and will not allow the AUF and ANC to disregard these very serious allegations.
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