South Africa: Special Investigating Unit Raids Offices of Ratlou Local Municipality in North West

press release

Atamaleng Magistrate's Court in the North West Province on Wednesday, 28 July 2021 granted the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) a warrant to raid offices of the Ratlou Local Municipality. SIU investigators are currently raiding the offices of the Setlagole Village based Municipality with the assistance of the Hawks after the Municipality dismally failed to cooperate with SIU investigation.

This follows the signing of Proclamation R23 of 2020 by President Cyril Ramaphosa authorising the SIU to investigate allegations of corruption and maladministration in the affairs of State institutions relating the procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

The SIU received information from a whistleblower that a senior official at the Municipality instructed officials to appoint service providers who are allegedly known to the senior official, for the provision of PPE and material to be used for disinfection of buildings. The appointments were done without following supply chain policies and emergency procurement directives issued by the National Treasury in terms of section 168 of the Municipal Finance Management Act No.56 of 2003. It is further alleged that quotations received from the service providers were exorbitantly higher than the prescribed price limits as per Treasury Instruction.

Another allegation was that officials are abusing the petrol cards for Covid-19 related travel. The whistleblower informed the SIU that one card would incur up to R5 000 for a local trip that is less than 60 kilometres. The Covid-19 related expenditure incurred by the Municipality is estimated to be around R25 million and the figure is likely to rise after the raid.

The Municipality was placed under administration in terms of section 139(1)(b) of the Constitution on 13 January 2021. It is alleged that once the announcement of the intervention was made, the Municipality began to make rushed payments to service providers who amongst others, were appointed for the supply and delivery of PPE, without ensuring that services had been rendered in accordance to specification.

When the appointed Administrator and her team resumed their duties at the municipal offices, they were chased away by a group of individuals. The SIU issued a letter in terms of section 5(2)(a) of the SIU Act to the Administrator requesting specific information and documents, however the Administrator could not provide such information and documents because she was prevented from accessing the office.

On 14 January 2021, the Municipal Manager went to organise a Special Council meeting where a resolution was taken to remove the mayor and speaker. Senior managers were appointed to act in certain critical positions one being that of a Chief Financial Officer, even though Council's powers had been revoked as the Municipality was now under administration.

A court declared the Special Council's meeting unlawful and ordered that the Administrator continue performing her duties assigned to her in terms of section 139(1)(b) of the Constitution. Following the court judgment, the Administrator received the SIU report recommending that disciplinary action be taken against the Municipal Manager and other officials for financial misconduct relating to the irregular procurement of PPE and the appointment of service providers to disinfect the municipal premises without following a competitive bidding process.

The Administrator placed the Municipal Manager on precautionary suspension, pending institution of disciplinary action against him. The Municipal Manager took the matter to the Labour Court but was unsuccessful in challenging his suspension. Council continues to disregard the Administrator and allowed the Municipal Manager to render services even though he had been placed on precautionary suspension. To date, the SIU team has been unable to access information and documentation pertaining to procurement undertaken during the national state of disaster and such information is only in the Municipality's possession.

Fraud and corruption allegations may be reported via the following platforms: siu@whistleblowing.co.za / Hotline: 0800 037 774

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