The DA opened a criminal case against Ndlambe municipal manager Rolly Dumezweni on Monday, for alleged illegal actions relating to the awarding of a R100-million tender for a sea water reverse osmosis (SWRO) plant on the banks of the Kowie River.
The case was opened in terms of section 171 of the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA), which makes certain acts and omissions a criminal offence.
“This case arises from the judgment against Ndlambe Municipality in the Grahamstown High Court last week, which found that the awarding of a tender to Quality Filtration Systems (QFS) for the installation of a reverse osmosis plant was unlawful and irregular,” councillors Skura Venene and Khanyisa Daweti said in a statement.
“The judgment further fingered Dumezweni as the key official responsible for amending and awarding the tender. It also highlighted the irregular (and frankly illegal) pre-payment of R20-million to QFS, before a contract had been signed. Only Dumezweni would have been in a position to authorise this,” the statement said.
The DA also called for Dumezweni’s immediate suspension and a full internal investigation into the matter
The EFF also welcomed the high court judgment, but has criticised both the ANC majority on council and the DA for how the tender was handled.
Appearing on Ndlambe FM last Friday, the lone EFF councillor on the Ndlambe council, Xolisa Runeli said: “The DA and the ANC are useless. We have two parties under the same blanket and speaking one thing.”
Talk of the Town’s reporter observed the interview in the studio.
Runeli grouped the DA with the ANC, claiming that they were part of the committee that approved the decision to award the tender.
Turning to the court judgment Runeli said: “This final judgment orders the municipality to set aside the tender and re-advertise it. But here is the problem. The municipality quickly awarded the QFS tender. The second thing is, the municipality quickly made the payment of R20-million to QFS before it even began the building processes.
Runeli said the ANC under the watch of municipal manager Rolly Dumezweni had rushed to pay R20-million to QFS, knowing full well that the awarding of the tender to said company was being challenged in court by the losing bidder, MEB Energy.
“What made the municipality want to award the tender to QFS by all means necessary?” he asked.
Referring to both the ANC and DA on council, Runeli said, “We are led by people who do not care, cowards who are scared of municipal officials. These people do not care to the extent that they are led by these officials while they have the majority in the council.”
“The judge also said the municipal manager, Mr Dumezweni, failed to protect the council’s money. He has failed to protect council’s assets. That is why the EFF says the DA and the ANC must account in this mess we have found ourselves in. They must answer because they are the ones that helped QFS to get the tender,” he said.
Responding to such speculation on Facebook, DA councillor Joc Guest said: “We as councillors do not have any oversight over the tender process. I consider this to a flaw in the municipal act. MPAC [the Municipal Public Accounts Committee] which should assist in monitoring may, according to the act, be chaired by the opposition. In reality most ANC-run municipalities take the gap and use the word ‘may’ to appoint one of the own.”
According to Runeli, municipal officials had travelled to the Western Cape to examine the RO plant but these officials never made mention of what the plant looks like. Runeli said the RO plant was apparently going to be assembled in Cape Town and be transported to Port Alfred as a finished product.
Runeli expressed doubt that the R20-million that had been paid would be recovered.
“The Speaker must convene an urgent meeting. We will write to her and say hurry up mama (mother). Call the councillors and discuss this court judgment. The whole process must start afresh and it worries [me] that the department of water and sanitation (DWS) is quiet. You cannot just give away money and do not monitor if it served its purpose.”
Runeli said the EFF wanted Dumezweni and everyone who participated in the tender process to be suspended pending an investigation.
Municipal spokesperson Cecil Mbolekwa has not responded to TotT’s query on what the municipality’s response was to the DA laying charges.
TotT learned that council had convened a special meeting on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the high court judgment, and according to the agenda, council had to decide on the appealability of the case, the time delay to dispose of the matter in court, the patience of the DWS and department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs in keeping the funds made available for the RO plant, and the impact of the drought on the Sarel Hayward Dam, “versus redeeming itself on unfounded allegations and errors of judgment by Judge Zilwa”.
Members of the public who joined the council meeting on MS Teams conference were booted off when the matter came up.
Meanwhile the regional executive committee of the ANC Sarah Baartman region advised the Ndlambe council not to appeal the high court judgment.
“The decision taken by the REC does not suggest that there’s any intended malice (corrupt practice) in the process,” ANC regional chairperson Scara Njadayi said.
“The decision has been taken in the spirit of renewal and the promotion of good governance.”