Port Elizabeth – Six laptops and more than five boxes of documents have been seized and three officials suspended in yet another high-profile corruption case being investigated by the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.
This was confirmed by Mayor Athol Trollip at a press conference on Tuesday morning, who said the seizures were connected to alleged irregularities surrounding Milongani Eco Consulting, which was contracted to the municipality’s public health services.
Trollip said three service providers, with linked expenditure of approximately R60m, are to face high-level forensic investigations after months of evidence gathering.
“Contracts and all expenditure relating to the City of Champions project, Mohlaleng Media and Milongani Eco Consulting, will face forensic scrutiny. This comes after evidence presented to the municipality was deemed sufficient to warrant suspicion and investigation,” he said.
Trollip said the municipality had spent in excess of R20m on the Mohlaleng Media contract, which had effectively become an uncapped contract, and the City of Champions project, aimed at building social cohesion, was valued at R21.7m.
He said the full extent of the funds under investigation through the Milongani Eco Consulting contract had not been finalised as the investigation was still ongoing.
Trollip said the intention was not only to investigate the contracts and proceed with criminal action if wrongdoing was found to have taken place, but that the municipality would also pursue civil action against the companies to recover wasted public money.
“Every cent of public money spent in respect of identified contracts must be accounted for. Any irregular or fraudulent expenditure will result in disciplinary action and civil cases will be opened, the information for which will be handed to the South African Police Service for criminal prosecution,” he said.
Deputy mayor notably absent
The latest crackdown has also appeared to have deepened the growing rift between Trollip and deputy mayor, Mongameli Bobani, who attacked Trollip’s leadership style in a damning two-page letter over the weekend, saying the municipality was being run like someone’s farm.
Bobani said he had never been consulted on the suspensions, which had occurred in the public health directorate, which he leads.
“First and foremost, I was never informed of this apartheid government style operation as the MMC (Member of Mayoral Committee) of Public Health and yet some MMCs, including the mayor, were aware and part of the implementation process,” wrote Bobani.
Bobani went on to say he had noticed a “calculated and well planned underhand plan” to tarnish his name and said he was no longer prepared to be treated as a “disrespected wife who is never consulted about anything”.
Trollip said he was not prepared to comment on Bobani’s letter, as there were processes set out in the national coalition agreement to deal with these aspects, and debating them in the media was not one of them, but said Bobani had been made aware of the investigations.
“The minutes will show that these issues relating to City of Champions project, Mohlaleng Media and Milongani Eco Consulting, have been the topic of discussion among all members of the mayoral committee,” said Trollip.
Hotline calls increasing
Trollip said the municipality was committed to rooting out corruption, and they were starting to see the buy in from the public as well, with 193 tip-offs received through the Municipality’s Ethics Hotline, which was launched in October 2016.
“Sixty-nine of these are currently being investigated by Internal Audit and another 68 are being investigated by other directorates,” said Trollip.
“A large amount of information has been received through the hotline and directly from individuals. This has culminated in one of the biggest moves against corruption the metro has ever seen,” he said.