Cederberg municipal staff were told 'not to cooperate' during raid: SIU

The SIU is looking into alleged PPE tender irregularities at the Cederberg municipality.
The SIU is looking into alleged PPE tender irregularities at the Cederberg municipality.
Image: 123RF/Oksana Smyshliaeva

The mayor of Cederberg, in the Western Cape, says the municipality is considering taking the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to court over a search and seizure operation related to the procurement of PPE.

Sylvia Qunta on Monday alleged that the SIU had earlier arrived without a proclamation or a warrant when they seized documents and electronic devices.  

“This kind of conduct is unacceptable and the courts will be approached to review same where appropriate,” she said.

SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago denied the claim, saying: “By now, everybody in this country knows that there was a proclamation signed by the president six weeks ago. I don’t know what they are talking about. We work within the law."

He added that contrary to Qunta’s claims that staff were directed by the municipal manager to give their full cooperation to the SIU, there was a memo sent to staff instructing them not to cooperate with investigators and to try to stop them entering the premises.

He said that they were investigating all allegations of irregularities relating to acquisition of PPE for Covid-19 under presidential proclamation R23/2020.

“For anyone to say we came without a proclamation, I don’t know what they are talking about or which world they are living in,” he said.

“They said that the people shouldn’t cooperate with us. They have written to everybody ... even last week when we were here, they were trying to block us from getting the information that we need.”

Kganyago said the investigation stemmed from a probe into suppliers of PPE at the  neighbouring Matzikama municipality. Three suppliers who are under investigation also did business with the Cederberg municipality.

He said the investigation was at an early stage.

“We don’t do arrests. When we are done with our investigation, we then decide if there is something to recover, and we’ll do that. And if we find criminality in the process, we then send it to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA),” he said.

'Nothing to hide'

Qunta said in a statement that she “ fully supports the president’s initiatives to ensure public funds are spent in a transparent and lawful manner” and had no objection to the SIU entering the municipality’s premises to seize items “described in a search and seizure warrant or any other recognised and enforceable instrument”.

But she claimed last week's attachment of laptops and private cellphones of staff was conducted without a proclamation or warrant.

“The Cederberg municipality has conducted procurement of PPE and food parcels in accordance with its recognised prescripts and policies and will assist the SIU in its investigation,” she said.

“ The municipality has nothing to hide and will continue to assist the SIU in its investigations, as long as these investigations are done lawfully with due regard for constitutional rights.”

Provincial MEC for local government, environmental affairs and development planning  Anton Bredell welcomed the SIU operation in Clanwilliam on Monday.

In a statement he “expressed his dismay at the allegations made by the SIU that attempts were made by the ANC-led council to prevent the SIU from doing its work”.

“This is the second council in the province which the SIU has now raided. Again the allegations being investigated relate to fraudulent procurement of personal protective equipment and again the SIU has been hampered in its work,” he said.

“I want to repeat the call I have made to the leader of the opposition in the Western Cape, Cameron Dugmore, to work with us in tackling corruption and ensuring good governance in the province.

“The Western Cape prides itself on being tough on corruption and insisting on good governance.”

Western Cape ANC spokesperson Dennis Cruywagen said the party in the province stood by Qunta’s statement and would not comment further.

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