Stamping out civic graft

KWAZULU-Natal's department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs has recovered more than R8,7million embezzled by senior officials and councillors in municipalities.

The department has instituted criminal charges against 28 people while in other cases the government has frozen pensions and other benefits of those officials who resigned while under investigation.

Local government MEC Nomusa Dube made the revelations yesterday when she tabled her 2010/11 budget in the legislature in Pietermaritzburg.

Dube said the bulk of the department's R1,1billion budget will be used to speed up service delivery to the poor communities in the province.

With regard to fraud and corruption, she did not provide further details or names as the matter was sub judice.

Dube said the department's latest action demonstrated the provincial government's commitment to curbing corruption.

"These are nothing less or more than focused efforts to promote clean governance.

"We are determined to ensure that this critical sphere of our government is in a position where it can effectively provide the much-needed service to our people," said Dube.

Her message was clear: "Criminals surrender. You are surrounded!"

The province has lost more than R50million through fraud and corruption at municipal level.

Among the municipalities where the department has recovered funds, are Dannhauser (R763000), Umtshezi (R207000), Mkhanyakude (R2,6million) - with a further R3,5million pending asset forfeiture and a criminal case, uMgungundlovu (R1,3million and R2, 1million) - where civil recovery processes were still under way.

An amount of R111000 has been recovered from eDumbe with just more than R100000 recovered from Impendle.

Dube said corruption stemmed from a lack of management tools and officials and politicians who plundered the coffers of municipalities.

She said her department was strengthening its financial control and beefing up the audit units of municipalities.

But not all was doom and gloom and 70percent of municipalities have achieved a clean audit from the auditor-general.

The department has been conducting 50 investigations since 2008.