R90M UP IN SMOKE

The Nkomazi municipality in Mpumalanga is in serious financial shambles after over-spending nearly R90million on projects worth far less than the amount paid for.

The Nkomazi municipality in Mpumalanga is in serious financial shambles after over-spending nearly R90million on projects worth far less than the amount paid for.

Sowetan has established that the municipality had just over R120million in the last two months of last year, but now has only less than R35million in its coffers.

Cyril Ripinga, the municipality spokesperson, initially denied the allegations but later confirmed them and insisted that the money had been used for projects as well as other municipality's needs.

"What? I'm not aware that we have gone down this much," Ripinga initially said.

Asked to say how much money did the municipality have in the bank, Ripinga changed his tune.

"I can't tell you how much we have in the bank, but I can confirm that we have used the millions you are talking about according to our budget," he said.

Sowetan has established that the projects, including the fencing of graveyards, were owned by councillors or officials who charged the municipality exorbitant amounts using front companies.

The Nkomazi Business Forum recently marched to the municipal offices and handed over a memorandum of complaints to the mayor, Johan Mavuso.

The NBF said the work done on the graves was worth less than R30000 each, but that claims of up to R190000 were made.

Ripinga refused to explain how this happened, claiming that he was on sick leave.

Trouble in the municipality first surfaced in February when Sowetan published a story about the municipality irregularly spending about R8million within three months last year.

This was three months after the suspension of the municipal manager, Sabelo Shabangu, who is still suspended.

The allegations against him included incapacity.

The then acting municipal manager, Thokozani Siboza, requested the integrity management unit "to investigate the procurement and recruitment processes" for 2006-2009 financial years.

Siboza has, however, since been accused of turning around and stopping the unit from continuing with the investigations.

The Public Protector is probing the claims against Siboza.

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