A senior eThekwini municipality official has pleaded guilty to squandering R36m of taxpayers’ money by allegedly approving payments to four companies in connection with a toilet tender.
Now, in exchange for his guilty plea, the city’s deputy head for sanitation operations, Sibusiso Vilane, has recommended that he either be suspended for 10 days without pay or his salary increment be withheld for a period not exceeding 13 months.
In a letter dated February 6, seen by TimesLIVE, Vilane said: “I wish to plead guilty to a charge of negligence in that I had approved payments to Uhlanga Trading Enterprise CC, Soundrite Construction and Plant Hire (Pty) Ltd, Magubane Plant and Constructors CC and Temblos SA (Pty) Ltd for the sum of R36,126,257.24 when the said goods and services were not rendered in respect of contract WS6772 to the employer.”
He admitted that he did not go to site to inspect if the material was delivered because as deputy head he didn’t always do site inspections. He said his subordinates were tasked with the verification of the goods and services rendered.
Disciplinary proceedings against Vilane followed a report by the city’s Intergrity and Investigative Unit (CIIU) which found that the five companies had failed to deliver 2,200 urine-diversion toilets which were to be supplied to communities and schools in 31 rural and semi-urban municipal wards.
The report also found that three companies each received a share of R2.5m, while another pocketed R28.3m and the payments were made before the work was done. The companies agreed to supply each toilet at R18,300 but the city investigators established that the price charged for the toilets had nearly doubled.
However, all four companies rejected the allegations contained in the CIIU report.
The report slammed Vilane and another employee for not opening up the bid process.
As a result of the CIIU report, Uhlanga Trading Enterprise CC and Magubane and CC were blacklisted by the city but this was overturned by the Durban High Court in August last year which ordered that they be reinstated.
The city is also challenging the report’s findings.
In his plea agreement, Vilane stated that he was aware that the project had followed the necessary approvals and had also worked on the project from inception and had no reason to doubt the authenticity of the project at the time of signing the invoices for the material purchases.
He said he was committed to executing service delivery and that controls measures were in place to avoid a repetition of this incident.
“I am sincerely remorseful for what had happened and undertake to take extra steps to ensure that the contraventions for which I have been charged for will not be repeated,” said Vilane.
“I wish to state further that there was no malicious intent to defraud the municipality and to date all the deliverables related to the project have all been accounted for and toilets were constructed and delivered to the needy communities of eThekwini municipality, pursuant to my effort to ensure there was value for money and wasteful expenditure is avoided,” he said.
Vilane and the other employee were both charged with misconduct for “committing an act of gross dishonesty” by approving payments to the five companies in December 2017 during the disciplinary held in November last year.
Vilane told TimesLIVE on Friday that he couldn’t comment on an ongoing matter.
“I’m not in a position to answer your questions. I’m of the view that this is an internal matter between the employee and the employer which is being addressed following the normal internal procedures,” said Vilane.
eThekwini municipality spokesman Msawakhe Mayisela said: “The city does not respond to information leaked to the media and appeal to be given a space to deal with its internal matters which, once processes have been finalised, it usually communicates to its important stakeholders and the media.”
Three of the companies – Mabugane Plant and Construction, Uhlanga Trading Enterprise and Soundrite Construction and Plant Hire – said they had done nothing wrong as they had not been paid for construction of the toilets. The fourth company could not be reached.