De Lille linked to R43m loss

City of Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille appears to be turning a blind eye to investigations concerning the city and good governance. PICTURE: GALLO IMAGES

The wheels are coming off in the first major city governed by the DA, with Cape Town mayor National1,  embroiled in a controversy about an alleged R43m loss in a MyCiti bus stations tender. This is not the only controversy that has dogged the popular De Lille this year. At the beginning of the year, she suddenly quit as DA Western Cape leader.

Since then she has also been involved in a public spat with mayoral committee member JP Smith, an imbroglio that the DA is still investigating. Both have been barred from official DA functions. In the latest incident, Craig John Kesson, executive director: directorate of the mayor since January, and the coauthor with De Lille of a book launched in September, has in an affidavit pointed a finger at De Lille and city manager Achmat Ebrahim.

The affidavit was made in the presence of deputy mayor Ian Neilson. In his affidavit, he said he had become increasingly concerned about the attitude and conduct of the mayor and city manager regarding allegations against and concerns about a senior manager Melissa Whitehead, the former commissioner – transport for Cape Town.

Currently Whitehead is the commissioner: transport and urban development. He had informed De Lille in a confidential memorandum about a presentation that disclosed a multi-million rand loss to the city via the MyCiti bus service. Auditing firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers subsequently estimated this loss to be R43m.

“I advised her there was a possibility this loss had been known to city officials for some time.” He said the city’s disciplinary board subsequently considered the matter. Legal advice from a Cape Town legal firm was that the conduct of the city manager and the commissioner be investigated. On August 31, Kesson said he tried to present the lawyers’ report to De Lille.

“The mayor did not wish to receive it and said we needed to make the issue ‘go away’ and that the matter should not reach the council. This naturally surprised and concerned me.” He said De Lille displayed a similar stance at a subsequent meeting held in September “in respect of allegations that had been made concerning the bid evaluation process for the Foreshore Freeway tender”.

Independent consultants, he said, not only criticised the participation and conduct of the commissioner on the relevant bid evaluation committee but also alleged she had stated in a meeting that a particular bid should be rejected. In his view, said Kesson, De Lille’s conduct as described in his affidavit was not compatible with her legal and ethical obligations.

“She has failed to ensure that due process is followed in respect of alleged misconduct and irregularities brought to her attention. “She appears to have placed pressure on the city manager not to require due process to be followed.” He said that investigations into serious issues concerning the city and its good governance have been suppressed and swept under the carpet.

Those people who brought these matters in good faith to the office of the mayor were threatened with investigations into their conduct for fulfilling their ethical, moral, contractual and legal obligations. This week, the city of Cape Town gave Ebrahim, Whitehead and Kesson seven days to make submissions why they should not be placed under precautionary suspension.

They must make individual submissions to the city by Tuesday. De Lille’s spokesperson, Zara Nicholson, did not answer her cellphone yesterday. She did not respond to an sms asking for comment either.

-Dennis Cruywagen