The Maruleng Indoor Sports Centre project sticks out like a sore thumb and the deafening silence on the part of both senior officials and councilors defies logic. This abandoned project is now cupped by the Sekororo hospital and the newly completed Mahlakung shopping complex. The municipality has once again proved that it is unable to interpret and understand the rule of law as it relates to the proper use of public funds. The prescripts of the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) were recklessly swept under the carpet as the funds for the project were mercilessly drained before its completion. It now remains to be seen as to how the implicated senior officials and councillors will wriggle their way out of this clear case of looting.
This project is funded by the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) and it was allocated a total amount of R43 455 238.20. The municipality resolved claiming financial constraints that it would be a multi-year layered project stretching the financial years; 2014/15-2015/16-2016/2017-2017/2018. The contract was awarded to the contractor on the 28th November 2014 and work started in earnest. The most glaring indication of corruption stems from this point of the awarding of the contract as the company awarded was only registered in 2016. This happened during the tenure of Mr. R.J Ramothwala as Municipal Manager obviously in collaboration with some of the councillors. In spite of this gross misconduct, Mr. Ramothwala was paid R1 081 828.04.
In terms of evidence, the last certificate (Certificate No. 16) for payment was issued in November 2017. This was done regardless of the fact that the project has virtually stalled at seventy six (76%) percent of construction. It is quite questionable that the current council allowed itself to inherit the challenges relating to this project without exhausting the key issues to a satisfactory end. In a rush, the current council entered into a very precarious situation by continuing to cover anomalies created by the previous council. It is therefore very apparent that the politics have failed to acknowledge that the project is funded by public funds and that there are clear guidelines as to how these funds should be used.
The results that came out of the investigations that were carried out against Mr. Ramothwala showed further that there were some three senior officials who were implicated. Instead of investigating the alleged involvement of these officials, the council opted to close the matter while it continues to entrust them with the authority to administer the municipality. In essence, the municipality has been reduced to a mere looting mechanism and its political management has virtually collapsed. The implicated officials are obviously aware of their complicity with regard to the crippling of the project and they are holding on to the hairline because the political side is also deeply involved and compromised.
The municipality has opted in terms of its responsibility to inform the public to treat the media as a menace. From the time of former municipal manager, Mr. Lethole S.J, to his untimely resignation and the Acting Manager stints, we have presented questions about this project without any answers. It is obvious that there is more than meet the eye. It is however comforting that the more they play hide and seek on the use of public funds the more they make matters worse because the truth shall always hold. It is equally unfortunate that the politicians seem to be lacking the capacity to lead decisively. That the current council transitioned into taking total responsibility without checking facts and the state of the institution in itself is a sign of lack of political awareness.
It is now 2019 and the project is still stalled and the timeline has expired as per the original mandate. The municipality will thus have to aggravate the situation by again undermining the tenets of the MFMA. It is equally perplexing that the provincial and national governments are not calling for accountability from the municipality. Any additional allocation of funds to this project will be an open act of corruption.
Our attempts to draw a response from the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) yielded only an acknowledgement and referral. Several email correspondence to the provincial department of Cooperative Governance Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs (COGHSTA) drew a blank.
In the absence of a formidable and consistent opposition, the municipality under the stewardship of the African National Congress (ANC) is sinking further into the abyss. The project has already missed its deadline for completion and efforts are being made to corruptly undermine the rule of law in order to cover the muddy ground. Any attempt to allocate additional funds for the purpose of completing the project will seal the fate of those involved as evidence reveal a deeper complicity in the whole corrupt scheme. What needs to happen now is for the council to own up to the whole debacle and to subject everyone involved to accountability. Beneficiaries of this scheme will have to face the wheels of justice and the sooner the better.
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Politics & Governance