In a media briefing on Tuesday to cerebrate his 365 days in office, mayor Mxolisi Kaunda promised to prosecute the eThekwini municipality officials who have committed acts of corruption.
He said the city was taking firm action against corrupt officials following the recently released auditor-general’s report which revealed that eThekwini was “one of the leading municipalities” regarding irregular expenditure.
Kaunda said “We want to assure the citizens of eThekwini that we are actively promoting a culture of accountability throughout the municipality. We have convened a workshop with senior management and developed practical plans to address irregular expenditure”.
He said action would be taken against corrupt officials who would be dealt with according to the law regardless of any possible connections to senior management. “We can’t tolerate it, whether it is done by an official who seems to be very close to the mayor and the executive but whoever commits corruption, (they) will be dealt with in the manner that the law says we must deal with those individuals. They must be brought to book, all of them”.
The mayor said the plan included the implementation of early warning systems to detect irregular expenditure; consequence management for officials implicated in wrongdoing and weekly meetings with senior management to assess the progress on the implementation of the plan.
The plan also included reducing over-reliance on consultants; the development of a credible contract management system; the appointment of supply chain management specialists and monthly reports on violations of the Municipal Finance Management Act which will be supplied to leadership for action.
He said “We are also concerned that some officials have seen an opportunity to mismanage our Covid-19 relief funds by inflating prices against treasury regulations. As the leadership of the municipality, we have ordered an audit on all Covid-19 expenditure to determine the level of corruption. We will support all the work by our law-enforcement agencies to uncover any wrongdoing and we want all those implicated by the report to face the full might of the law.”
Kaunda said the city was making progress regarding the backlog of disciplinary cases arising out of investigations and reports by the city’s Integrity and Investigations Unit. The caseload had been reduced from 333 to 164 since October. He said “The categories of misconduct range from conflict of interest, fraud and corruption, irregular expenditure to procurement irregularities”.
Sipho Cele, the acting city manager said they were working closely with the Hawks regarding officials implicated in corruption in the Durban Solid Waste tender fraud case and the recent R700 million corruption case involving the Water and Sanitation unit.
He said the city was also still busy with its internal investigation into Covid-19 expenditure, although it had received a report that it had received value for money spent on the homeless and food parcels.
Speaking on the city’s joint campaign with the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry to deal with dilapidated buildings, Kaunda said several “bad building” owners had stepped up to fix their buildings including several in Mahatma Gandhi Road and Pickering Street. He said the city had also identified several council-owned buildings in the inner city for conversion into social housing.
He said “We are moving with speed to construct a ‘Government Mall’ in the Point precinct intended to serve as a community precinct centre modelled on a shared facility where law-enforcement agencies including SAPS, metro police, immigration services and customs will also be housed to enhance our crime-prevention initiatives”.
He added that the city would install face-recognition technology for the purposes of crime prevention.