South Africa, Pretoria – Refilwe Mabusela was among the aggrieved contractors who stormed the City headquarters to demand payment for catering rendered during the tenure of administrators.
For months the contractors have been at loggerheads with the City of Tshwane over non-payment for catering services. It is not the first time they have descended on Tshwane House.
In September they demonstrated inside the City headquarters, where a woman stripped naked to protest against being removed from the building by metro police.
Yesterday they were prevented by the metro police from entering the municipal manager’s office.
Amid the tension, Mabusela fainted and was attended to by emergency personnel, who rushed her to Tshwane District Hospital.
Their renewed demand for payment was made after the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) apparently cleared them of wrongdoing after it had probed allegations that service providers had inflated their invoices to the City.
The group wanted to see acting city manager Mmasebatha Mutlaneng, who was apparently on leave. They accused Mutlaneng of refusing to pay them and playing hide-and-seek with them.
Speaking on their behalf, Emmanuel Makuwa said he was surprised by the delays in settling payments, especially after a report submitted by the SIU to Tshwane exonerating them from corrupt dealings.
Makuwa said: “We spoke to new mayor Randall Williams, who told us he had given the acting city manager the go-ahead to process our claims. When we go to Mutlaneng she is reluctant to pay us. We think she is trying to play politics.”
He said the woman who fainted had confided in him that her restaurant had to be closed recently after she failed to pay rent.
“We want the acting city manager to take us into her confidence and let us know how far the process of paying us is.
“The SIU report has been with her since Monday. Since Monday there has been no communication from her. If there is no money in the City, let them tell us,” Makuwa said.
In September Mutlaneng flagged at least 34 service providers for alleged wrongdoing related to the inflation of invoices and possible collusion with City officials in the awarding of the tender. At least 10 municipal officials were linked to collusion with service providers during the process to grant catering contracts.
The City expressed concern that the supply chain management and procurement process to award the catering contract was riddled with irregularities. Allegations were that the initial invoices of 15 service providers amounted to more than R19 million, forcing former acting city manager Mavela Dlamini to institute an investigation into non-compliance with Supply Chain Management processes.
The head of supply chain management was placed on suspension for failing to issue purchase orders to service providers. The City then referred the allegations of corruption to the SIU for a probe.
The SIU report, seen by the Pretoria News, indicated that the law-enforcement unit had interviewed the 29 service providers who had invoiced the City of Tshwane for catering services rendered to the homeless.
It said: “Supporting documents and invoices were analysed for the period April 2020 to July 2020 and investigation revealed that services were rendered. Thus the SIU is reasonably satisfied that the service providers mentioned did indeed provide the specified services to the City of Tshwane.”
However, the City was warned against paying contractors who could not provide supporting documents or invoices because that would amount to “fruitless and wasteful expenditure”.
Chief of staff Jordan Griffith said Williams had reviewed the report. “The report highlights how during their time in office the ANC administrators failed to ensure that proper invoicing was provided by these service providers, and that supply chain processes were not followed,” he said. He had engaged with Mutlaneng and indicated that a fair remedy should be pursued, he said.
“Where it has been clearly verified that the service providers have provided the service that they say they have provided, the matter must be addressed,” Griffith said. The mayor had given instructions that the officials who mishandled the matter and sidestepped due processes must be held to account for the irregular expenditure.