eThekwini’s executive committee (Exco) passed a motion to retrospectively pay contractors in excess of R88 million for work that was done without prior authorisation from the municipality. This work refers to Project Y6525 which is related to the refurbishment of communal ablution blocks in various wards of eThekwini.
According to a report presented to Exco on Tuesday, the project initially began in 2019 and in December of the same year the municipality processed all payments relating to the project.
However, there were additional claims for work done by service providers who were working under the main contractor. “Through the verification process by the forensic auditors, the unit has been able to retrospectively confirm value for money for work amounting to R88,17 million,” the report states.
To fund this, the report recommends the City reprioritise savings that have been identified in its water and sanitation department’s 2021/22 budget.
Thabani Mthethwa, DA Exco member, described the recommendation as “criminal” and urged the committee to vote against it. “It is criminal. We cannot keep paying people who, for some reason, do work for the municipality without a valid contract. Those are people we should be charging for doing what they are not supposed to do,” he said.
Mthethwa said paying these contractors would result in the municipality incurring irregular expenditure.
Philani Mavundla, eThekwini’s deputy mayor, said a verification process by auditors had been done to determine the “value for money” for the City regarding the project.
“Unfortunately as a City we are sitting with a liability [because] it was our asset that was repaired. Whether you want to fight about it, we can do it at the City manager’s level but not here as politicians,” he said.
Thabane Miya, EFF Exco member who voted in favour of the motion, said the municipality could not continue to conduct business like this.
“Going forward we need to find out how many cases are there that are like this so we can group them, check them and deal with them at once,” he said. “Then we put a moratorium moving forward because we cannot have this situation recurring. It means we are breaking the law and are unethical leaders.”
Nkosenhle Madlala, ANC Exco member, said the committee was united in being against this practice, however, a solution was needed.
Madlala said they were comfortable voting for the motion as the figure was determined by consultants who had audited the work. “We have a responsibility to the people who did the work and the assets that are there are assisting the [respective] communities,” he said.
Sibusiso Makhanya, eThekwini’s deputy City manager responsible for the Durban Cleansing and Solid Waste unit, said a consolidated report determining the extent of this problem was going to be prepared and presented to Exco in the near future.
The motion passed with the ANC, EFF and IFP (seven) voting in favour while the DA (two) voted against paying the contractors.