Mettler to get tough over tenders shambles

Newly elected NMB city boss Johann Mettler Picture: FREDLIN ADRIAAN
Newly elected NMB city boss Johann Mettler
Picture: FREDLIN ADRIAAN

Heads are expected to roll in Nelson Mandela Bay’s troubled supply chain management department as the municipality faces renewed pressure from the auditor-general (AG) over poor recordkeeping and missing tender files.

The tender records were in such a shambles that the AG was not even able to measure just how much irregular expenditure was incurred in the 2015-16 financial year, which ran from July last year to June.

The municipality has, for the fifth consecutive year, received a qualified audit opinion.

A qualified audit means there is a lack of proper internal controls and that the AG could not verify some financial information.

It is a blow for the city which is trying to shed its image as a dysfunctional administration.

It also does not bode well for potential investors keen to pour money into the city.

While the official audit report has not yet been released, city boss Johann Mettler said he had been informed by the AG’s office about the supply chain management qualification on Friday.

In some good news for the city, the municipality has managed to turn the tide in its corporate services department by fixing the leave system which was in disarray.

The leave debacle was the cause of the last two qualified audits.

However, in the latest audit, the metro faces major criticism for not keeping proper control of its records.

“The supply chain department’s record management is just bad,” Mettler said.

“Because of the bad management and record-keeping in that department, the AG is not even in a position to confirm a number to say how much irregular expenditure we have.

“This is bad. No self-respecting accounting officer can tolerate that – and I’m certainly not going to tolerate it.”

Mettler now has six months to fix the rot in the department and turn the situation around before the AG can even reconsider his opinion.

“That you can’t find records in a government institution with the National Archives Act that says you must keep documents for at least five years is unacceptable,” he said.

“And whoever is in charge there, you’ve got yourself a problem.

“If they can’t fix the problem, I would like to get somebody else to sort it out.”

The metro’s director of supply chain is Ndimphiwe Mantyontya.

The audit result comes as chief financial officer Trevor Harper, who is ultimately in charge of the supply chain department, was placed on precautionary suspension last week.

Speaking about what he termed a problematic department, budget and treasury portfolio head Retief Odendaal revealed that on a surprise visit to the department’s Harrower Road offices six weeks ago he had found hundreds of tender documents scattered on a table, unsecured.

“I arrived unannounced and walked into the boardroom, and there were hundreds of unsecured documents,” he said.

“I immediately contacted the chief financial officer and Mettler, and was told there is an issue of not having space to store all the documents.

“When I saw that, I realised that supply chain is nowhere close to being fixed.”

Mettler said that while the documents had been left on the table because the officials were sorting through about 2 000 tenders, the door should have been locked.

“I also sent my staff member to go and look at what’s happening there and she confirmed that it was bad,” he said.

“Things were just lying there, and we could walk in and there was nobody there. That is shocking.

“Yes, that was not a record management thing, but there was no order in the way they managed that and it is problematic.

“It’s not in my nature to just accept excuses and bury my head in the sand.

“It needs to be fixed. Somebody is responsible for that.

“Clearly the standard operating procedure is either not being complied with, or there is no standard operating procedure – or somebody is just absolutely incompetent,” Mettler said.

During the audit period, Mettler had been at the helm for six months, while former mayor Danny Jordaan and his deputy, Bicks Ndoni, were the political leaders for the full financial year.

The former finance political head, councillor Rory Riordan, has pinned the audit outcome on mayor Athol Trollip’s leadership.

He said the new political guard had “destabilised” Harper’s office over the past three months, making it difficult for staff to be in a positive frame of mind to resolve any concerns raised by the AG. – Additional reporting by Avuyile Mngxitama-Diko

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