Suspended Bay official to return to work

Andile Tolom
File picture: Eugene Coetzee

A senior Nelson Mandela Bay municipal manager who was suspended for alleged impropriety will return to work on Monday.

Occupational health boss Andile Tolom was suspended in July, following accusations that he had signed off on irregular payments worth R25-million to environmental consulting company Milongani Eco-consulting.

Tolom previously denied the allegations, saying his suspension was not about the payments but about undermining processes.

Tolom referred all questions to his attorney, Advocate Willie Blundin.

Yesterday city manager Johann Mettler said an investigation report conducted by auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which had implicated Tolom, had been finalised.

Mettler said on the advice of PwC, Tolom had been given a notice to return to work as the investigation had been concluded.

“We don’t see a reason for him to stay at home as the investigation has been finalised,” Mettler said.

“Based on the report from the investigators we have lifted the suspension.”

Mettler said further disciplinary steps might follow depending on the report’s findings.

Tolom was placed on precautionary suspension in July. He was one of four officials from the public health department who were suspended from April for alleged impropriety.

In total 17 municipal officials are on suspension, costing the metro R5.9-million a year while their disciplinary proceedings are under way.

The draft PwC report, which The Herald saw, alleged that Tolom, despite having no authority, had signed appointment letters issued to Milongani.

Mettler said the final report was not different from the draft.

The report is to be tabled at the Municipal Public Accounts Committee (Mpac) in the new year, before being presented to a full council meeting.

Based on the findings and recommendations of the report, Mettler would then decide if disciplinary steps should be taken against Tolom, he said. The PwC probes cost the city nearly R1-million.

The draft report recommends all payments made to Milongani be classified as irregular expenditure and that Mettler must investigate and thereafter report any alleged criminal conduct to the police.

A letter which has been seen by The Herald was sent to Tolom on Wednesday.

In the letter, Mettler said: “Please take cognisance of the fact that current investigation into various matters pertaining to public health may still result in disciplinary charges being brought against you.

“In the event that you are charged, the lifting of your suspension may also not be used to argue that the employment relation has not broken down.”

Blundin said they were not aware the investigation by PwC had been concluded.

He said that as far as they were concerned the suspension was lifted after an application of unfair suspension was made in the bargaining council.

“We met with the municipality’s legal representatives and thereafter our representations on unfair suspension were considered,” Blundin said.

Blundin said it had then been agreed that the suspension be lifted. He said they were happy to have Tolom return to work.

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