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Portfolio Committee to crack the whip

Members of the Portfolio Committee on Public Accounts of the Free State Provincial Legislature, addressing the media                                                                                                                                                Photo: New Trends Media

By Chamu Wilson                                                                                –

The Free State Legislature Portfolio Committee on Public Accounts is rolling its sleeves to bring accountability to those responsible for bringing chaos to Fezile Dabi District Municipality.

Addressing journalists at a media briefing in Bloemfontein, the Committee, made up of five Members of the Provincial Legislature (MPLs), three from the African National Congress (ANC) and one each from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the Democratic Alliance (DA), expressed their dismay at how both the Fezile Dabi District Municipality as well as the Member of the Executive Committee (MEC) for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Oupa Khoabane, have responded to their efforts of trying to find a solution to the cocktail of issues that have plagued service delivery in the municipality in recent months.

The committee resolved to look into the finances of the district municipality following the release of the financial results for the year ending 30 June 2018.

“In terms of the process of the committee, Fezile Dabi is required to appear before the Committee on Public Accounts and has failed to do so on two occasions. The Committee, therefore, resolved to visit the municipality to allow for the process to unfold as required by law. To this effect, the committee duly informed the Fezile Dabi District Municipality and MEC, Hon. Oupa Khoabane, so that there is accountability. It is, therefore, very concerning to the committee that the MEC, has, on two occasions, failed to appear before the committee on reasons that reflect neglect and disrespect to the Committee,” said part of the statement read to the media by Kenalemang Phukuntsi on behalf of the Committee.

The Committee went further to point out that when it visited Fezile Dabi Municipality, its member were denied entry into the municipal building by security officer allegedly hired by the Municipal Manager, Lindi Molibeli, without the consent of the council.

“What has been happening at Fezile Dabi is total chaos. The root of all that is the beef that is said to be between the municipal manager and Executive Mayor and this has seen the former enlisting the services of a private security company to guard to deny entry to anyone including the mayor, the councillors and the workers. In essence, the municipality is being held at ransom,” explained the Portfolio Committee chair who is also the ANC Chief Whip, Neels van Rooyen.

The beef between Mayor Oumix Oliphant and the municipal manager, Molibeli, is said to have emanated from the fact that the former allegedly refused to sign a new contract for the latter because of alleged “corrupt” activities. Molibeli has gone on to continue discharging her duties irrespective of the fact that her appointment has not been sanctioned by the mayor.

Issues escalated to a point where Oliphant was refused entry into the council offices by the security officers hired by Molibeli.

Contacted for comment, Fezile Dabi District Municipality Spokesperson, Thomas Nopheche, confirmed the existence of bad blood between the mayor and the municipal manager but hastened to add that the matter was referred to MEC Khoabane for guidance.

“It is true that there is a disagreement between the Executive Mayor and the Municipal Manager but the issue has been referred to the MEC and we expect the issue to be resolved in the next couple of weeks,” Nopheche explained.

Asked about how the impasse has affected the running of the council, Nopheche said service delivery had been greatly affected as workers are not reporting for duty and some projects have had to be suspended.

“It is true that service delivery has been greatly affected as you will understand that when workers are not reporting for duty, no service will be provided to the ratepayers. We had some projects that were meant to be implemented but these had to be postponed,” he said.

The spokesperson added that the council is busy looking into the issues raised by the workers and hopes that an agreement will reached soon.

Meanwhile, the Committee is contemplating to subpoena Khoabane as they believe that he is deliberately trying to avoid appearing before the committee as he has given the “same excuse” on both occasions.

Other courses of action to be taken include a forensic investigation into issues of financial irregularities and maladministration in the municipality as well as exploring legal avenues to ensure that the issue of access to the council is resolved as the municipality is a public entity.

The Portfolio Committee on Public Accounts is chaired by Neels van Rooyen with other members being David van Vuuren (DA), Jonas Ramokhoase (ANC), Kenalemang Phukuntsi (ANC) as well as Kgotso Morapela (EFF). The Committee provides oversight functions on the Executive as well as public organisations to ensure accountability of public funds.

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