Engcobo officials must pay back R11m

Mzubanzi Silinga
Mzubanzi Silinga

Former Engcobo municipality administrator Mzubanzi Silinga and nine officials, who allegedly cost taxpayers R11.2m by awarding contracts to companies that did not deliver the work, have to personally pay it back, National Treasury has recommended.

Of the R11.2m, R8.3m was awarded to the companies to construct six access roads.

However, some of the roads were never constructed, while with other roads there was no evidence of value for money.

The R11.2m in irregular expenditure was uncovered during phase one of a National Treasury investigation into the rural municipality’s finances.

Phase one focused on the awarding of tenders for construction of six access roads between Bhekileni and Qengqeleka villages, Chibini to Kwajija, Cwecweni to Mzwini, Mgudlwa to Mzangweni, Newtown to Sdadeni internal road, and Ntsunguzini access road.

The six contracts form part of 18 access roads under scrutiny by the National Treasury.

The report, seen by DispatchLIVE, recommends that fraud and corruption cases be opened against the six companies awarded the work, “for claiming for services not rendered” and for instances where the municipality “did not receive value for money” in the construction of these access roads.

The companies have not been named because they could not be contacted at the time of writing on Wednesday. Four of the officials named in the report served as members of the bid evaluation committee (BEC), and five in the bid adjudication committee (BAC).

The confidential report, yet to be tabled in council, also recommends the struggling council institutes disciplinary action against six other officials “for misrepresentation in that they certified items for payment whereas in truth and in fact they knew that certain services were not rendered”.

Silinga on Wednesday refused to comment, saying he had not seen the report.

“I have heard about this from someone, but at this moment I am not even aware of what is on the report, hence I cannot comment on its contents until I have had an opportunity to see it.

“For that matter I was not even aware of any investigation as no-one ever contacted me about it,” Silinga said.

The forensic investigation was conducted by Johannesburg-based Fundudzi Forensic Services and was handed over to municipal bosses by Cogta MEC Xolile Nqatha.

Nqatha’s spokesperson, Makhaya Komisa, on Wednesday confirmed the MEC had asked National Treasury to probe how the municipality’s finances were being managed, but referred questions to the local authority.

The second phase of the probe, according to the forensic report, will investigate alleged irregularities in the tender to upgrade the 12 remaining roads, the Engcobo Stadium upgrade, renovation of a taxi rank and a house of a mayor who was not identified.

The Fundudzi investigation found Silinga caused the municipality to incur irregular expenditure amounting to R11.2m in respect of the six access roads, “by instructing the BEC and BAC to evaluate and adjudicate respectively after the bids validity period lapsed”.

It found that the nine BEC and BAC members were also instrumental in incurring this irregular expenditure.

Council speaker Teenage Mbolo refused to comment and referred queries to mayor Siyabulela Zangqa and municipal manager Maxwell Moyo.

Neither could be reached for comment by time of printing on Wednesday.