Bay mayor accused of interfering as court fight over IPTS loot hots up
Asset cops tell Bobani to stop meddling
A sword hanging over Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Mongameli Bobani’s head in relation to the Integrated Public Transport System (IPTS) is what prompted him to meddle in the case of fraud accused Andrea Wessels, the Asset Forfeiture Unit has claimed.In challenging the forfeiture and possible auction of her R3.7m Summerstrand home – allegedly bought through the proceeds of crime – the businesswoman surprised the state with an affidavit from municipal accountant Karel Kramer the night before the matter was due to be argued in the Port Elizabeth High Court.Kramer, the chief accountant in the capital budget and financial accounting section of the budget and treasury directorate, said he had been instructed by Bobani to undertake a complete analysis of the payment in contention before court.He denied the source of the money was the IPTS budget.But taking issue with Bobani allegedly interfering in court matters, AFU advocate Warren Myburgh said the instruction for Kramer to delve into the matter should have come from council or acting municipal manager Noxolo Nqwazi, and not the mayor. “It is very surprising at this late stage that the mayor, who has a sword hanging over his head in relation to the IPTS, is now instructing Kramer to depose of an affidavit,” Myburgh told judge Elna Revelas this week.Kramer hung up on the reporter when asked why he had deposed an affidavit, and if the instruction had in fact emanated from Bobani.He could not be reached for further comment.Bobani said as the matter was in court it would not be appropriate to comment now.“The matter is sub judice and does not involve me directly. It is a court matter. I am not going to comment. I reserve my right to comment.”Bobani then urged all people who stole money from the IPTS to come forward.“Those that have stolen will be exposed. They must come out of their cocoons. They are living in posh houses. It is time for them to come out and face the music,” he said.Bobani said he had evidence that some of the individuals had bought planes and lived lavish lifestyles.“If they don’t come out I will expose them,” he said.He said these “criminals” had been reported to the Hawks, Special Investigating Unit and the Public Protector.“I know them. The Hawks know them. The SIU knows them. But why are they not being investigated,” he asked.“The Hawks must bark [up] all the trees involved with those officials and the IPTS.“Some of them are still in the municipality. It is time for the law enforcement agencies to investigate them.”Myburgh said the court should not entertain the application to present further evidence at this late stage.Judge Revelas must still rule on the admissibility of Kramer’s affidavit.Myburgh said further that Wessels seemed to have “a psychosis of entitlement for the court to come to her rescue”.Wessels was seated in the court gallery as the heated arguments were heard, while Deloitte and Touche forensic investigator Burt Botha sat next to Myburgh.The businesswoman and her company, Zeranza 299 (Pty) Ltd, are on trial in the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court for fraud and money laundering over the alleged siphoning off of millions of rands meant for the city’s IPTS.The criminal trial resumes in August.In October 2018, the high court granted the AFU a preservation order for Wessels’s double-story home.Then, on March 6 2019, Wessels succeeded in provisionally interdicting the auction of her home, pending an application to rescind the forfeiture order.This is not the first time that Bobani – also under investigation by the Hawks for allegedly receiving some of the ill-gotten funds – has been accused of showing a suspiciously keen interest in certain matters related to the IPTS.In another matter before the high court in Makhanda, in comment on this email@example.com which law firm Gray Moodliar Inc is challenging a decision to terminate its services, Bobani has been accused of constantly interfering in legal matters, particularly those pertaining to businessman Fareed Fakir.The Hawks have alleged that R664,000 was allegedly paid to Bobani by Fakir’s Heerkos Projects, trading as INPTS.INTPS had billed the municipality for nearly R10m in May 2014 for the development of an internet-based tender management system, which the state claims was never developed.Advocate Hannelie Bakker, instructed by attorney Tiaan van Schalkwyk, is meanwhile adamant that Kramer’s affidavit should be considered by the court as it shows that Wessels has a bona fide defence.Bakker said the state had wanted to know where the money came from and now that it had an explanation, it was not willing to accept it.Kramer said further that the municipality followed a practice of funding projects only after financial year-end, after all the invoices for that financial year were paid or accrued.“All capital payments made in the municipal system [are] assigned an asset ID. This gives the municipality the ability to track assets and expenditure,” he said.The payment related to Wessels was never funded by the IPTS grant from the National Treasury, but rather by current income, which represents own generated income by the municipality itself, he said.But, Myburgh said, whether it was IPTS or general municipal funds, the fact remained that the money was public funds.He hit back: “Nowhere do they dispute that the money was paid.”He said one did not need an accounting degree to see that Kramer’s submission that the municipality funded projects only after financial year-end was “grossly irregular”.Zeranza was in any event never registered on the municipality’s data base as a service provider, he added.Wessels, meanwhile, said in a supporting affidavit that the National Director of Public Prosecutions and the treasury were to blame because of their failure to ascertain the truth, alternatively its attempt to conceal the true facts from court.She said the AFU knew – or ought to have known – that the funds did not emanate from IPTS coffers.She said further that the AFU had based its case on the forensic report of Deloitte and Touche, particularly that of Burt Botha, that the funds earmarked for the IPTS in Port Elizabeth identified in Phase Two Leg One were IPTS funds and used to pay INTPS.The case was postponed for the Asset Forfeiture Unit to file an answering affidavit.