Merafong municipality workers facing disciplinary action for fraud
323 employees were found by a forensic investigation initiated by the municipality to be involved in the overtime fraud saga.
Nearly a quarter of the employees at the Merafong City Municipality on the far West Rand are facing possible disciplinary action for making fraudulent overtime pay claims.
The widespread overtime abuse has resulted in the financially constrained municipality to overspend its overtime budget by more than R2 million. It budget was R9.897 million for the 2016/17 financial year, but it has already spent a whopping R12.278 million as at the end of January 2017.
Municipal spokesperson Chris Spies confirmed to The Citizen that 323 employees were found by a forensic investigation initiated by the municipality to be involved in the overtime fraud saga. Spies said the forensic report and its recommendations on further actions were submitted to and adopted by a full council.
He was responding to a claim by DA Constituency head Ina Cilliers, who said that despite Merafong having a strict overtime policy in place, stipulating that employees may not work more than three hours overtime a day or 10 hours a week, the workers still racked up huge sums in overtime compensation. Cilliers also said the forensic report had been quietly swept under the carpet by the council.
“The allegation of the DA is without any foundation. The steps to be implemented were contained in the report on the forensic audit which was submitted to and adopted by council,” Spies said.
He said among the steps taken by the council included submitting a process plan to the Local Labour Forum to deal with the outcome of the forensic report. “This is an important step since the number of employees implicated in the forensic report represent almost a quarter of the total staff complement of council,” Spies said.
The disciplinary process was delayed by processing of files and charge sheets of the implicated 323 employees and the appointment of a Disciplinary Committee and evidence leader to deal with the matter.
Spies confirmed that Merafong had an overtime moratorium that applied to the entire district, while it also had a 40% vacancy rate. He said because of the high vacancy rate, more overtime work was unavoidable in certain sections to ensure continuous service delivery, especially in cases of water pipe bursts and electricity outages resulting from cable theft or other main infrastructure breakdowns.
“Despite the fraudulent claims which were proven by the forensic report, [they are] still well under the acceptable percentage for personnel expenditure for municipalities,” Spies said.
Spies defended the municipality management, saying it should be taken into consideration that it was the one that ordered the independent forensic audit after the municipal internal audit section identified the irregularities.
“The correct actions in terms of financial management framework were therefore implemented at the right time. Although these actions continued for a period of three months, the checks and balances in the financial management of the municipality led to the fraud being discovered,” he said.
He said further action that the council may take would be determined by further feedback from the process plan currently under way.