Metro to pay out R1.3m to Harper

Trevor Harper
File picture: The Herald

Nelson Mandela Bay’s former chief financial officer Trevor Harper will walk away with a R1.3-million golden handshake, which includes a payout for 52 days of leave accumulated while on suspension.

Credible information leaked to The Herald yesterday indicated that Harper – whose resignation was confirmed by city manager Johann Mettler on Sunday – would receive five months’ remuneration, one month’s notice pay and 2½ months’ leave pay.

Harper’s lawyer, Grant Hayward, said Harper’s employment dispute with the municipality had been resolved amicably.

“By agreement between the parties, I am precluded from divulging any details regarding the agreement reached,” Hayward said.

The UDM claimed in a statement on Sunday that the municipality would also pay Harper’s legal fees.

A source from the municipality said the allegations by the UDM were untrue and that Harper was liable for his own legal fees.

The former financial boss had been on suspension since November 2016.

He was accused of negligently signing off on payments worth R34.6-million to Afrisec, a company that did work for the metro’s bus system without a lawful contract in place.

Asked how many disciplinary processes of suspended officials were still outstanding, Mettler said there were eight more.

Legal bills have so far cost the municipality R614 596, including disbursements such as travel, legal counsel, forensics and prosecutors.

This is the second high-profile settlement in the city in over a year.

When former Mandela Bay Development Agency chief executive Pierre Voges parted ways with the entity in January last year, he received a R1.3-million golden handshake.

According to the agency’s financial statements ended in June, Voges received a R1.3-million gratuity payment.

Harper was cleared in June of wrongdoing in a separate matter involving R7.8-million that was paid to businessman Fareed Fakir’s company, Erastyle, for the development of a marketing strategy for the IPTS bus system.

EFF councillor Zilindile Vena said he was not aware of the settlement reached between Harper and the municipality because the councillors had not been briefed yet.

“We’ll probably be briefed in the upcoming council meeting because, as far as we know, Harper was suspended by council,” Vena said.

“I guess we’ll just have to check if processes were properly followed and council was not just bypassed. “If it was, heads will roll.” Vena said he had been shocked to see the former finance boss’s post advertised. “This whole thing seems rushed. “The fact that we don’t have any proof of what’s happened leaves us concerned,” he said.

ANC councillor Rory Riordan said the city had lost a great chief financial officer in Harper, who should never have been suspended in the first place.

“We opposed the motion to suspend him when it was brought up in council and we said it was a very bad deal for both him and the metro,” Riordan said.

“Somewhere between R5-million has been wasted since then.

“We are poorer because of it, Harper has left and we’ve lost a great CFO. The metro has just taken a terrible blow here.”

Riordan said the R5-million comprised the salary paid to Harper for 15 months, the allowance paid to acting CFO Barbara de Scande, the city’s legal fees and the golden handshake.

“Ratepayers in the Bay have got absolutely nothing but instability in treasury. It’s an utter disaster,” he said.

Asked if she knew about Harper’s resignation, municipal public accounts committee chairwoman Yoliswa Yako said she could not comment as it had not been brought before council.

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