Secret report backs suspended manager

A CONFIDENTIAL report has "saved" a suspended municipal manager from having to pay millions back to his council.

Accusations by the Nkomazi municipality that its suspended municipal manager, Sabelo Shabangu, illegally paid R3,2million to a road construction company were found to be incorrect in a top secret report from MEC for corporate governance and traditional affairs Norman Mokoena.

The Section 106 report - leaked to Sowetan - has confirmed that the money, an additional payment made to Tarfix by the Nkomazi municipality, had been approved by the municipality.

Mokoena's spokesperson, Simphiwe Kunene, confirmed that his principal had handed over the report to the municipality more than a month ago.

Meanwhile, Nkomazi municipality spokesperson Cyril Ripinga repeatedly denied knowledge of the report - despite the announcement by chief whip Thomas Lubisi to the council that "we have received the report".

Page 15 of the report - titled "Mpumalanga Department of Local Government Forensic Report into the Activities at Nkomazi Municipality" - states that Tarfix was appointed to upgrade seven ring roads and paid the full amount, though it had failed to complete the projects.

Tarfix won the contract that was allocated a budget of R42million for 32,2km of ring roads that was later reduced to 28,7km in 2007 due to insufficient funds.

The manager for the project unit in the municipality, Dumisani Mzolo, submitted a motivation on July 2 2008 for a variation on the budget amounting to R3 245000.

"This variation was approved even though not all the roads were upgraded the full length as per the budget and reduced from 32,2km to 28,7km," the report said.

Despite the municipality's approval of the additional payment. the then acting municipal manager, Thokozani Siboza, demanded the amount from Shabangu - accusing him of having made the payment without approval.

Shabangu was suspended on November 4 last year for, among other things, allegations of incapacity and maladministration.

He said yesterday he had requested to be given "a platform" by the ANC to prove there was a political agenda against him.

ANC provincial secretary Lucky Ndinisa could not shed light on why Shabangu had not been given the opportunity he requested.