MEC will be asked to intervene on Bay meter-reading plan

Brian Hayward

LOCAL Government and Traditional Affairs MEC Sicelo Gqobana will be asked to intervene – and possibly overrule – the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality’s decision to revive its controversial Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) project with a company co-owned by property magnate Yossuf Jeeva.

The DA has said it will hold Gqobana “to account for the situation” following a report last week in The Herald which stated that – according to documents in the paper’s possession – acting municipal manager Elias Ntoba had given the project the green light after years of it being stalled, despite legal advice strongly recommending against proceeding.

The party also questioned the project following a 2007 investigation by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), although according to the unit “there were not sufficient grounds to motivate that a full investigation should be done”.

It is believed the investigation was put on ice when the AMR deal stalled in 2007. “Should additional information become available, the unit will evaluate it and proceed accordingly,” the SIU told The Herald.

DA MPL Dacre Haddon said the party would raise the issue during the provincial legislature’s open question session towards the end of the month.

“In terms of chapter 11, sections 110-120 of the Municipal Finance Management Act, it is stated … that the regulatory framework for municipal supply chain must be fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost effective. The investigation by the SIU into the matter clearly shows there is doubt in this regard.

“It is serious that the MEC has elected not to make the contents of (his department’s investigation into a number of alleged irregular city deals, which included the AMR deal) public, which he is compelled to do by law,” the party said.

The department confirmed the deal, signed with Unique Mbane in 2006 – whose directors include Jeeva, sons Nooshin and Shakir, and company chief executive Thiru Chetty – was included in the investigation.

While the forensic investigation has been completed, a department source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said legal opinion on a way forward in dealing with parties found to be involved in any “irregular deals” was still being sought. No date for the report’s release has been given.

“Part of the (the investigation which started in mid-2009) looked into the AMR. The first phase is concluded and now the department is seeking legal opinion so it can be presented to the city council. A number of aspects must still to be looked at,” the source said.

Department spokesman Michael Msebi said Gqobana “does not have any knowledge of the matter” of the project’s revival. “There are no records of the matter in the department. There is no basis for him to be held accountable for a matter he has no knowledge of.”

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