Access ‘paid metro cash to sports teams’

Details of how Access Management served as the gateway for the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality to filter millions of rands to the EP Kings and Chippa United have been spelt out in documents before the Port Elizabeth High Court.

Rian Oberholzer, the director of Access Management – the official operator of the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium – said he was unsure of whether or not the loans were approved by council.

He was responding to a court application by AfriForum and the Nelson Mandela Bay Ratepayers’ Association to have Access’s contract with the city set aside.

AfriForum claimed the contract was renewed without having been put out to tender and that the deal was made to facilitate the repayment of millions of rands by EP Rugby.

But Oberholzer described the allegations as “baseless” and “factually incorrect”.

“Access does not hold any monies that are due to third parties such as EP Rugby or Chippa United. This is simply not true,” Oberholzer said.

“It is denied that there is any impropriety whatsoever on the part of Access.“Access has at all material times acted under the instruction of the municipality and in terms of the operator’s agreement.”

He said Access had formed a close working relationship with EP Rugby, the anchor rugby tenants of the stadium, and that it had been extensively involved in ensuring the EP Kings’ participation in the Super Rugby competition in 2013.

With regards to Chippa United, Oberholzer said the relocation costs were R36-million, which was well known to all relevant parties.

“It is for the municipality to comment on the executive mayor’s [Danny Jordaan’s] report to council and what was in fact tabled for consideration.” He said he was also not privy to what was tabled before council.

Acting city boss Johann Mettler said yesterday that the municipality would file an affidavit in response to the claims and he could therefore not comment at this stage. On July 23 last year, Oberholzer and colleague Chantal du Pisani were contacted by the metro’s chief financial officer, Trevor Harper, who informed them the municipality had resolved to lend R750 000 to Chippa United.

Harper said the money would be paid over to Access, who was then instructed to pay it to Chippa. Oberholzer said this was done because Chippa was not an authorised vendor on the municipality’s system.

The funds were then to be repaidfrom the ticket sales of the match against Kaizer Chiefs on August 9 last year. He said with regard to this loan, Access was not privy to the decisions made by the council of the municipality and had no involvement in the decision-making process.

“I am accordingly not in a position to comment as to whether or not the provisions of the MFMA [Municipal Finance Management Act] have been contravened,” he said

The act states municipalities are prohibited from making loans to the public, councillors or municipal officials. Similarly, Oberholzer said Access, on behalf of the municipality, bought commercial rights from EP Rugby for the period July 1 last year to June 30 this year.

“The purchase of EP Rugby’s commercial rights was budgeted for by Access and the budgets approved by the municipality.”

However, after the acquisition of the commercial rights, Oberholzer said, EP Kings president Cheeky Watson met Jordaan, alleging EP Rugby’s commercial rights had been undervalued.

After attending a meeting with Harper and former budget and treasury portfolio councillor Rory Riordan at Jordaan’s office, Oberholzer said Access was instructed to add an additional R5-million to the purchase price.

Despite his protests, Oberholzer received a written memorandum from the municipality, signed by Jordaan, resolving that the acquisition fee was to be increased by R5-million.

“Access adhered to the instruction of the mayor and invoiced the municipality for the additional R5-million. “On receipt of the money, payment was made to EP Rugb y, ” he said.

“I have no knowledge of the condition stipulated by the mayor or whether the budget amendment was submitted to council.” He said Access had no knowledge as to the process that was followed by the municipality in deciding to renew and extend their operator’s agreement for a further period of one year.

A date for argument of the matter has not been set.

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