The Amajuba District Municipality, based in Newcastle, is facing intense scrutiny after President Cyril Ramaphosa authorised the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) to investigate allegations of serious maladministration within the government entity.
This development follows serious allegations concerning the conduct of the District Municipality. The President’s Proclamation, published by the SIU, invokes the Special Investigating Units and Special Tribunals Act, 1996 (ACT No. 74 of 1996) concerning the affairs of the Amajuba District Municipality. The investigation aims to ascertain the extent to which monies lost due to the alleged maladministration can be recovered.
It should be noted, that while Amajuba District Municipality is based in Newcastle, it oversees Newcastle, Dannhauser, and Utrecht municipalities.
Furthermore, the proclamation outlines various alleged transgressions that the SIU is mandated to investigate.
- Serious maladministration in connection with the affairs of the Municipality.
- Improper or unlawful conduct by the employees or officials of the Municipality.
- Unlawful appropriation or expenditure of public money or property.
- Unlawful, irregular, or unapproved acquisitive act, transaction, measure, or practice having a bearing upon State property.
- Intentional or negligent loss of public money or damage to public property.
- Offence referred to in Parts 1 to 4, or sections 17, 20, or 21 (in so far as it relates to the aforementioned offences) of Chapter 2 of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, 2004 (Act No. 12 of 2004), and which offences were committed in connection with the affairs of the Municipality.
- Unlawful or improper conduct by any person, which has caused or may cause serious harm to the interests of the public or any category thereof, which took place between 1 August 2019 and the date of publication of this Proclamation or which took place prior to 1 August 2019 or after the date of publication of this Proclamation. But is relevant to, connected with, incidental or ancillary to the matters mentioned in the Schedule or involve the same persons, entities, or contracts investigated under authority of this Proclamation, and to exercise or perform all the functions and powers assigned to or conferred upon the said Special Investigating Unit by the Act, including the recovery of any losses suffered by the Municipality or the State, in relation to the said matters in the Schedule.
According to the SIU’s proclamation, President Ramaphosa highlighted that the Schedule refers to the following:
- The procurement of, or contracting for the construction of a reinforced concrete reservoir and associated infrastructure in terms of Bid No. T2019/14 and payments made in respect thereof in a manner that was— (a) not fair, competitive, transparent, equitable or cost-effective; (b) contrary to applicable— (i) legislation; (ii) manuals, guidelines, practice notes, circulars or instructions issued by the National Treasury or the relevant Provincial Treasury; or (iii) manuals, policies, procedures, prescripts, instructions or practices of or applicable to the Municipality, and any related unauthorised, irregular or fruitless and wasteful expenditure incurred by Municipality or the State.
- Any improper or unlawful conduct by the officials or employees of the Municipality or the service provider in question, or any other person or entity, in relation to the allegations set out in paragraph 1 of this Schedule.
To view the proclamation, click here.
This situation stems from events that began unfolding in October 2022 when the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (KZNCOGTA) initiated an inquiry into the Amajuba District Municipality. The investigation was triggered by serious allegations made against the son of the former District Mayor, Vuselwa Bam.
Allegedly, Bam’s son handpicked a company for a R46 million tender to construct a wastewater treatment plant in the eMadlangeni (Utrecht) Municipality.
These allegations were brought forward by a whistleblower who reported them to KZN COGTA. The whistleblower also claimed that the Municipal Manager, Mandlenosi Sithole, disregarded a recommendation from the bid adjudication committee to cancel the tender and then readvertise it after objections were made.
To read more about the allegations and background, click here.
As a result, Bam was removed from her position as the District Mayor in November 2022, a month after KZNCOGTA announced its intentions.
To read more about this development, click here.
With the SIU now looking into the Amajuba District Municipality, it should be noted that the Auditor General also raised concerns in the first half of 2023 in her MFMA 2021 – 2022 report about material irregularities within the Amajuba District Municipality due to higher prices paid.
At the time, the Auditor General also focused on the contract that was awarded for the construction of the reservoir and associated infrastructure.
“However, the municipality did not evaluate a bidder that submitted a lower price and did not provide any objective reasons for having done so. The discarded bidder’s price was R2,46 million lower than the price of the bidder that was awarded the contract. Although the accounting officer committed to investigate the matter in response to the notification we issued in February 2022, the material irregularity was not appropriately addressed due to delays in completing the investigation as well as in implementing the actions stemming from the investigation. We included recommendations on the next steps to be taken in the municipality’s 2021-22 audit report,” said the Auditor General at the time.
To read more, click here.
As the Amajuba District Municipality prepares for this investigation, the community is encouraged to share their thoughts on these developments in the comment section below.