Mid-Week Reflections: DA Joburg has no carte blanche to handpick service providers

The City's reasons for failing to disclose details of its forensic investigations include the excuse that addressing these questions slows down service delivery and their inability to track the costs of these investigations.

First-time council leaders may be excused for misunderstanding the nature of the beast – politics is a complex game. What betrays the inexperience of the folks now running the City of Johannesburg is their entitlement to moral superiority.

You see, none of us have offered a counter-argument to their main meal ticket – that the ANC was hopelessly corrupt when it was in charge of the country’s economic powerhouse city. The more we maintain our silence towards their daily mantra of rooting out corruption, the more they doth protest too much.

Here’s a curveball to Herman Mashaba and his members of mayoral council (and a few from coalition partner IFP): we are very well aware of allegations of looting, corruption, maladministration, grand-scale corruption and malfeasance the previous administration has bequeathed you.

The common thread running through Jozi prior to August 2016 was inner-city squalor, general lawlessness characterised by the hijacking of buildings, kickback paradise in the City’s various departments, undercutting of rates by wanton officials and millions of rands spent on what Mashaba termed “vanity projects” at the expense of service delivery of the downtrodden residents of Johannesburg.

The social contract between the DA-led coalition and ratepayers as well as the broader public was that corruption would be criminalised, the City’s bureaucracy would discharge its duties with Swiss precision, budgets and tenders would have value for money as an overarching guiding principle and that the lining of pockets with the public purse would be an urban legend. Oh, and that through forensic investigation, culprits would face the might of the law.

The administration has earnestly instituted investigations into various dubious transactions, tender processes and procurement that defy logic, a bloated workforce with no correlation between skills and performance areas. New rot is uncovered everyday. But, Mr Mayor and fellow coalition councillors, this is neither a blank cheque nor carte blanche to pervert supply management processes and the Municipal Finance Management Act. No, it is not.

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I will unpack the current consternation for decision-makers in the City. Perhaps we have not been very clear in the past on this issue, and we can all turn a new blank page of engagement: you can’t, ethically and legally, continually handpick companies to investigate former councillors in the City. You can’t create new rules, you can’t institutionalise different strokes for different regime in the City. You will breed corruption yourselves.

Anecdotal evidence, in the absence of formal response from the City’s schizophrenic communications setup, suggests a rather untenable environment where names are drawn from a hat of prospective service providers for forensic investigations with open-ended briefs that allow for open subcontracting. Outsourced work that should be tendered out is allegedly given to subcontractors without following Treasury regulations. Shocking, if true.

This is where it gets tricky: when asked to provide information on service providers allocated the work, the brief and scope of the assignment, the report and recommendations and expenditure and related costs, the City gives colourful excuses. One can’t help but get the impression that the DA in Joburg understands accountability to be an obligation only the ANC is expected to ‘uphold, protect and promote’.

The excuses range from “your detailed questions are slowing down service delivery”, “the companies doing this work are not comfortable with their names published”, and my personal favourite cop-out, “the information you require is too detailed, and it will take us a month to collate it from relevant departments”. Here’s a R0.00 hint: it’s called monthly and quarterly reporting. Extract the information without treating it like a decayed tooth.

Another area of concern is when senior employees recruited during the ANC’s tenure are fired. Again, no one has a problem with weeding out deadwood. The City’s operations continue to be shrouded in secrecy on this matter. Name and shame! Tell us exactly how much they stole. Once you’re over this hurdle, advertise the position and let competitive candidates stick their hands out. A routine question on the organogram of the City also elicited bizarre answers.

Tick these few boxes, and you will find, Mr Mayor and fellow MMCs, that the majority of South Africans are supportive of anticorruption initiatives. Replicate a corrupt pattern and you will soon find out South Africans will switch their allegiances quicker than those dysfunctional robots in Midrand. And when it is all said and done, happy hunting and all the best. Corruption is a scourge and a liability this country cannot afford to coddle.

Mashaba on anti-ANC purging spree, critics allege

Gosebo Mathope is a Senior Political Reporter for The Citizen Online. Email gosebom@citizen.co.za or follow @Gosebo_Mathope

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