Substantial changes made by service provider to paint glowing picture
Impact assessment reports submitted by City of Champions to the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality were doctored, with one of the original documents – which carried heavy criticism about the company and its role in uplifting the Bay – being refashioned to instead paint a glowing picture of the work it did.
It is also claimed that company owner Mazizi Msutu’s name was slapped on one of the documents given to the municipality, even though he never wrote the report.
Development Partners owner and NMMU associate professor Deon Pretorius was hired by City of Champions in 2015 and last year to produce two social cohesion impact assessment reports.
These were to be used by the municipality to determine if the project was a success.
But almost all criticism and recommendations contained in one of the reports Pretorius handed over to Msutu were removed from the version subsequently passed on to the municipality.
Even percentages calculated from score sheets that participants used to rate the world record events were drastically increased in the report sent to the municipality – with most upped to 99%.
“This is deeply shocking. It is fraud,” Pretorius, a socio-economic analyst based in Perridgevale, said.
City of Champions was hired in a R21.7-million deal by the municipality in December 2014 to make the Bay the first metro to hold the most world records simultaneously in three years, while building social cohesion.
During this time, however, the company headed by Msutu, 44, appears to have also bankrolled lavish spending.
Weekend Post reported earlier this month that artwork, hotels, an overseas holiday, fancy whisky and restaurants – with one bill topping R20 000 – were just some of the luxuries paid from the City of Champions bank account.
Bay city manager Johann Mettler said mayor Athol Trollip had asked him to commission an independent investigation into the City of Champions project following the Weekend Post report.
“The purpose of the investigation is to unpack all of the allegations and determine whether there was value for money,” he said. In response to the spending spree, Msutu had said how the company spent the fees it had earned on the project was of no concern to anyone.
Bay sport and recreation director Charmaine Williams confirmed that the municipality had received the reports directly from City of Champions.
“The municipality has no knowledge regarding the editing of the reports,” she said.
“We would have to look at the original and compare that to the edited version to determine what was removed and edited, and [then] decide on appropriate action to be taken.”
The second report, dated July 2015 to September last year, that Pretorius supplied to Msutu was adulterated, with massive chunks of criticism and recommendations removed before being passed on to the municipality.
The original report contained 11 pages of criticism and recommendations which was cut down to half a page.
“My name is no longer on the report yet 80% of the content that remains is still mine, but it has been distorted,” Pretorius said.
“He [Msutu] changed components of what was a critical report into something that has been interpreted as glowing.”
On receiving the report in September, ‘ He [Msutu] changed what was a critical report into something that has been interpreted as glowing Msutu e-mailed Pretorius, questioning the critical tone of the document.
“I’d like us to discuss the contents of the draft report. I’m truly amazed, to say the least, at your assertions,” he wrote.
Pretorius said he was paid only half of the R68 000 owed to Development Partners for compiling the second report and that Msutu had removed his name from the document.
At the bottom of each page, it states “prepared by Mr Mazizi Msutu”.
“How can he claim this is his report?” Pretorius said. “He simply changed the front page – and every page consists of 90% of my words.
“Where he did not like it, he changed it. And then he leaves out a whole chunk of criticism.”
At least 30 pages of the professor’s original analysis were left intact but doctored to show favour to City of Champions.
Some of the paragraphs removed outright from the second report include:
“There are indications of decline in number of participants and attendants, composition of participants, quality of participation, record-setting, champion-like experience and quality of event
organisation.” “There is no way in which it can be established if the City of Champions projects and events actually translate into any lasting or sustainable socio-economic developmental impact.”
“It may seem evident that people are coming together and enjoying themselves and even enjoying one another at the City of Champions events, but there is no basis from which to argue that these experiences turn into lasting sustainable impacts.”
“[It] is open to criticism that it is using public funds without being able to justify it in relation to the public good being achieved.”
In his report, Pretorius also questioned the data he received from participants at the events as it was only done at a later stage.
Percentages calculated from participants at the world record events were drastically increased in the report sent to the municipality.
Participants were asked to score either “very good”, “good”, “bad” or “very bad”.
While Pretorius’s version stated that 48% of people recorded that the quality of event organisation was actually unsatisfactory, this was changed to 0% in the municipality’s copy.
On the quality of participation, Pretorius’s findings showed that 44% felt it was either “bad” or “very bad”.
But this was again changed to 99% who felt it was either “very good” or “good” in the municipality’s report.
Similar changes were made to the diversity at the events and champion-like experience felt, with Pretorius’s report recording 44% and 35%, respectively.
Again, the report handed to the municipality instead recorded a high 99% for both criteria.
“It is beyond the manipulation of information. He has distorted my analysis,” Pretorius said.
His first socio-economic impact assessment report, dated December 2014 to June 2015, was also doctored before being handed to the municipality.
In that report, Pretorius questions why only seven of the 27 intended events promised to the municipality took place.
But the edited version given to the municipality simply states: “Forty-six events have been completed to date … this represents an over achievement.”
The edited version then lists nine events, while the original only includes seven.
Pretorius told The Herald: “What we can say is that Mazizi had events and people attended. “But is that worth R21-million? “How do you spend R21-million to just get people together?”