First order of business to get millions back

Allegations of bugging devices discovered in Access Management’s offices and an 18-month agenda by the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality to discredit them, came to the fore yesterday as the stadium operators were slapped with a R200-million civil claim.

The municipality claims in court papers that it was forced to pay Access R200-million more than it should have over a six-year period. Access says the accusation is baseless. “Access can no longer stand by and have our proud 30-year track record in the SA sports industry tarnished by baseless allegations,” director Rian Oberholzer said.

The municipality has accused Oberholzer, Access chief executive Chantal du Pisani and municipal assistant director of finance Nadia Gerwel of fraudulent misrepresentation.

The court move comes more than a year after AfriForum first accused Access of being underhanded and asked the municipality to set aside its contract with them.

Events coordinator Andrea Wessels and her company, Zeranza, are also cited for allegedly claiming R8.9-million not actually due to her.

In the papers filed with the Port Elizabeth High Court last week, the municipality accused Access of either over-claiming on expenses incurred by the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, or under-declaring their profits.

Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Athol Trollip said residents had been subjected to rampant corruption and looting for too long.

“This government is serious about stopping corruption in all forms,” he said.

“We have already identified a number of dubious contracts, which have been frozen, and are now looking to recoup large amounts of public funds that our legal teams believe were spent illegally and misused.

“Under the previous administration, supply chain management was mismanaged and overspending of public funds was allowed to continue through uncontrolled use of deviations. “Those days are now over.” The parties were given 10 days in which to file their notice to oppose court action.

While Oberholzer and Du Pisani are the directing minds of Access, the municipality said Gerwel purported to represent the municipality and was responsible for payments to it.

Oberholzer said: “Over the past 18 months, Access has been acutely aware of a clear agenda to discredit us, led by senior role-players in the municipality and related organisations.

“These actions are either to enable other third-party stadium operators to be appointed or an attempt to pave the way for the stadium to be managed internally.

“While the municipality has the right to pursue this option, it cannot do so at the expense of Access.”

Oberholzer said he had been made aware of several stadium-related meetings in the first half of the year between senior municipal officials, where the topic of discussion was discrediting Access. They had also found bugging devices in their offices twice.

“To date, Access has made no media comment on this because the stadium is owned by our client, the municipality,” he said.

“Our business ethics and respect for the reputation of the stadium and our client have dictated that we remain silent … but we can no longer stand by and have our reputation tarnished.

“We have never enriched ourselves or misappropriated any funds.”

The court papers say an agreement was reached in September 2009, before the 2010 soccer World Cup, for Access to operate and manage the stadium from October 1 2010 to June 30 2012.

In May 2012, an agreement was concluded for the period July 1 2012 to June 30 last year.

“On March 13 2015, [the municipality] approved a resolution to grant a deviation of the supply chain management policy … in terms of which [Access] was appointed for the same purpose for a further 12 months,” the papers say.

In terms of the agreement, Access was obliged to pay all turnover and income generated from the stadium to the municipality.

Access was, meanwhile, entitled to claim payment from the municipality for certain costs incurred, such as authorised events, capital expenses, fixed operating expenses, management fees and variable event expenses.

Between February and March 2012, Access submitted several invoices to the municipality for nearly R12-million in total, the papers say.

Gerwel, in turn, ensured that the municipality paid R8.9-million to Access, and a further R2.9-million to the EP Rugby Union.

But the municipality now alleges that neither entity was entitled to that payment.

“The defendants did not at any time disclose to the [municipality] that the payments were being made in circumstances where they were not entitled to the funds,” it says.

“This constitutes a fraudulent misrepresentation on their part.

“Had the defendants made the necessary disclosure to the [municipality], it would not have paid the funds.”

It is further alleged that between March 1 2009 and February 28 2010, Access claimed that in operating the stadium during that period, it had incurred expenses totalling R15.8-million, when in fact its expenses were in the region of R12.3-million.

It is also alleged that Access shortchanged the municipality by under-declaring its income by more than R1-million for the same period.

The fraudulent misrepresentations allegedly continued, with similar claims being made between August 2010 and July this year.

Wessels said she had not seen the court papers, but was shocked by the allegations.

Gerwel did not respond to requests for comment.

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