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Cogta approves Municipal Manager despite misconduct allegations

by Thys Khiba
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By Thys Khiba – The Free State Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) has granted Masilonyana Local Municipality concurrence to extend acting appointment of Me Michelle Sello as Municipal Manager, effective from 24 March to 15 June 2023, despite misconduct allegations that she is facing.

On 04 May 2023, the MEC for Cogta and Human Settlements, Ketso Makume indicated that his office received the municipal’s request for a concurrence on appointing acting municipal manager, on 24 March 2023.

Toto Makume

Toto Makume

Meanwhile, Sello’s appointment begin to be effective from 16 March 2023.

Makume requested the troubled municipality to submit a report in connection with the appointment of the Municipal Manager.

Kindly submit to the MEC through the office of the HOD (hod@fscogta.gov.za) a progress report regarding the process towards filing the vacant position of Municipal Manager.”

This comes after the municipality took a decision to extend the contract of Sello by a further three months. It is alleged that the decision was taken by the council on Wednesday, 15 March 2023.

The suspended manager of legal services within the municipality, Itumeleng Mogaecho, submitted reports that looked into a variety of allegations, including misconduct against Sello.

The report by Mogaecho found that Sello failed to pay third-party contributions for the months of January, March and May 2021. The report also established that Sello allowed an unauthorised payment of nearly R900 000 to a bogus service provider.

After being dragged to the Free State High Court by the alleged actual company, the municipality was instructed to pay the service provider, resulting in it paying two companies, one real and one bogus, an amount close to R900 000.

Jet blasting to unblock sewerage drains in 2022, formed part of the services that were not paid to the service provider.

The reports by Mogaecho were not tabled to the council after being suspended by Sello.

It has been reported that the responsible mayor refused to table the reports to the council after suspending Mogaecho.

“…failed to execute her duties as outlined in terms of regulations.”

Meanwhile, the mayor, Dimakatso Modise has been accused of political interference with matters that relate to the council.

Modise sent two emails, that are reported as personal attack, to Mogaecho in response to misconduct reports implicating Sello, accusing him [Mogaecho] of being biased and inconsistent.

I’ve also observed how inconsistent you are with providing legal advice, depending on who you are dealing with. The point of reference is a payment made by the former acting municipal manager, Mr Sipho Thomas, to Camelsa Consulting Group for R700 000 despite the fact that their contract had run its course. I’ve been reliably informed that you were knowledgeable about this payment despite its bona fide intention.

I’ve been made aware that you drafted and tabled a report on the validity of their contract at a meeting where both Cooperative Governance’s (Cogta’s) intervention team and the provincial were present.

“It has also been brought to my attention that these allegations were concocted after the Acting Municipal Manager was holding you accountable for being derelict in the matter of the suspended expenditure manager, Mr Diseko Ntsepe. If so proven, it will be deeply worrisome and border on the pure fabrication of allegations to preserve oneself from accountability or consequence management.”

In response to the allegations made against Sello, the municipal spokesperson, Zongezile Ntjwabule replied as follows: “As a responsible journalist you have a legal obligation to upon learning of allegations of corruption, report such to the authorities or advice those making allegations of corruption to report them to the law enforcement agencies.”

Ntjwabule indicated that the appointment of Sello was effective from 16 March 2023 to 15 June 2023.

The legislation (Municipal Systems Amendment Act) empowers a municipal council on good course shown to the relevant MEC, to appoint a senior manager to act as a Municipal Manager for an extended period of not exceeding 90 days, after the first period not exceeding 90 days has ended.”

 

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