Staggering as it is, it comes as no surprise that of the 17 000 properties owned by the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, only 4 000 are officially documented on its books.
A report, commissioned by mayor Athol Trollip three months ago, has implicated several officials in an alleged property leasing scam which fleeced the metro out of millions of rand.
The report followed a presentation by the corporate services division which outlined thousands of leases of municipal property which were unaccounted for.
According to the report, the 17 000 properties include any land owned by the municipality, RDP homes that have not yet been transferred to the rightful owners as well as commercial and residential properties across the Bay.
While the scale of the leasing mess is indeed shocking, it was perhaps to be expected.
In April, this newspaper reported that the municipality’s lease management system was in such a shambles that about 80% of all contracts had expired.
This cost the metro millions of rands in potential revenue.
At the time, authorities blamed a lack of staff capacity and an unreliable lease register for the mess.
The situation was further exacerbated by the fact that leases were handled by two different departments, making it difficult to properly align the municipality’s processes, councillors heard at the time.
Such an environment with little to no proper controls is of course conducive for maladministration and corruption.
The latest report appears to suggest exactly that.
Trollip has promised to rope in the police to criminally investigate those implicated in this scandal.
This must be done as soon as possible to ensure that those who manipulated the system for their unscrupulous gain are held to account and, where possible, what was stolen must be paid back.