Deputy mayor Mongameli Bobani has taken the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality to task for spending exorbitant amounts on senior legal counsel to represent the city in disciplinary hearings.
Bobani also bemoaned the fact that millions of rands were being channelled to one law firm handling all the disciplinary cases on behalf of the metro, yet there were many other firms on the municipality’s legal panel.
The legal panel is a pool which the city draws from to pursue civil litigation, collections, conveyancing, litigation, labour and employment law, municipal law and commercial and corporate law, among others.
At a mayoral committee meeting on Wednesday, a report on the municipality’s efforts to implement cost-containment measures was presented by budget and treasury portfolio head, councillor Retief Odendaal.
He said the metro was making strides by reducing unnecessary costs. But Bobani felt that more had to be done to reduce waste, starting with legal bills. In the last financial year, the municipality spent about R56.3-million on legal fees.
Bobani said: “I have a huge concern that we are paying millions to only one company. That company is getting all the suspension [cases]. “When that company takes matters to litigation, they take three senior counsel for one case.”
He said the municipality used senior legal counsel in the disciplinary cases against axed corporate services boss Mod Ndoyana and senior supply chain management official Sox Nkanjeni, who was also fired.
Bobani wanted to know why the hearings dragged on for months on end – and in some cases for more than a year – when the municipality was using top lawyers.
“They are charging us a lot of money. This must come to an end. “It’s fruitless and wasteful expenditure and we must take the accounting officer to task,” he said.
The municipality’s political head of corporate services, councillor Dean Biddulph, said the vast majority of disciplinary cases were handled by internal staff, but for sensitive and “high-profile ” cases, they used legal representation.
Mayor Athol Trollip agreed that the legal bill had to be reduced. “When we go to the high court, it will be with senior counsel, but not for arbitration. “Where we can deal with cases using internal staff, we must do so.”