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eThekwini Municipality’s Covid-19 Funds Misappropriated

Covid-19 social relief fund squandered by the eThekwini municipality

South Africa, Durban – According to an internal Covid-19 expenditure review report by the audit committee, which was tabled before the City’s executive committee last week. The report, which has been leaked to The Mercury, was deferred for tomorrow’s exco discussion.

While R344 930 was reported by the committee to have been “lost” through alleged deliberate overpayment to suppliers, a further R75,9 million was irregularly spent against National Treasury guidelines on procedures – specific to the Covid-19 pandemic – to be followed when purchasing goods and allocating business to suppliers.

Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda and Speaker Weziwe Thusi complained during last week’s online exco meeting about the report not being tabled in a closed session.

Mayoral spokesperson Mluleki Mntungwa said he was not ready to comment on the allegations since the matter was yet to be discussed by the exco.

The report revealed incidents of overpricing, unjustifiable allocation of the special Covid-19 budget for normal operations of the City so as to justify emergency funding, City staff being part of the companies supplying services to the City, suppliers paid way above the price agreed to in the letter of award and awarding of business to contractors, not on the central supplier database approved by National Treasury.

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Eighty percent of paid suppliers were not part of the council’s consolidated procurement database for Covid-19.

In terms of the Municipal Systems Act 32 of 2000, the exco was expected to consider the report and refer it to the internal City’s Integrity and Investigations Unit for further investigation, after which those fingered in the probe would have to face disciplinary action.

Service units and clusters fingered in the report as culprits include Durban Solid Waste, the Mayor’s Office, Governance, Business Support, Economic Development, Community Participation, Safer Cities, the metro police and Housing, Electricity, Water and Sanitation, Retail and Bulk markets and uShaka Marine World.

The Act says the council would also have to report the consequence management process to the MEC for the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs for its oversight role.

Should the City not take any action, Cogta would have to institute its own forensic investigation in terms of Section 106 of the Municipal Systems Act.

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IFP caucus leader Mdu Nkosi said they were on record as saying they did not support the Covid-19 spending as there were many discrepancies. He said they had written to the public protector and the Hawks to investigate how the funds were spent.

“For example, spending on homelessness. We were presented with one figure of how much was going to be spent to care for the homeless and later was informed that the City had negotiated down, there were no changes on the number of people being cared for though. What miracle did they use to make that happen?” he asked.

A total of R68.8m was spent on food and temporary accommodation (marquees) for the homeless, and the report shows that most invoices were not stamped and were dated before the requisition and pro forma order dates.

Uniforms for Expanded Public Works Programme employees were bought using the Covid-19 budget, whereas this was not an emergency.

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In a bid to justify inflated prices, volunteering employees temporarily drawn from the SAPS, Social Development and Health departments were classified as VIPs so that they would be provided with meals that were priced far higher than those served to the homeless people.

The municipality has been under fire recently for its poor handling of the public purse.

Mercury

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