No leadership in Joburg to prevent Covid corruption

The latest report on Covid expenditure in the City of Johannesburg reveals that there is a complete lack of leadership by Mayor Geoff Makhubo. From the start of lockdown in March 2020 City officials have used the cover of this pandemic to systematically loot hundreds of millions while the Mayor’s only excuse is that he didn’t know better, there weren’t proper controls in place, that he’s still in the dark as to how these millions were spent, and that they’re waiting for more reports before they take action against officials.

In July 2020 we were warned by internal auditors that out of R600 million there was R400 million in suspicious expenditure, and now seven months later the total figure has been changing to R412 million, R354 million, and now R265 million. The DA has had to resort to threats of walking out of Council to get the Covid expenditure reports tabled, and when we eventually get them at the 11th hour they are always a confusing mess of figures
that don’t add up, are always changing from one report to the next, and show that there are no consequences for this blatant corruption.

You can’t claim that R3000 for a 100ml bottle of sanitiser, R5000 on a mask, or R5 million fogging an empty building is fine because this was a disaster, we weren’t prepared for, or that there were no controls in place. National Treasury was quick to provide guidelines on pricing for PPE and emergency procurement, and the Department of Health issues advice on appropriate responses, of which fogging or “deep-cleaning” was flagged as being ineffective. Yet Mayor Makhubo still wants to claim that he’s waiting on expert advice, and that the
City didn’t have controls in place.

By April 2020 there was a plan in place which acknowledged National Treasury guidelines, and the Mayor claimed that a special committee was set up to manage Covid responses and spending. The Board of the Johannesburg Property Company (JPC) in May 2020 flagged the fogging and deep-cleaning contracts as highly suspicious and suspended the CEO And CFO while they conducted an investigation. The Mayor has since replaced the Board of JPC through an illegal process, and the investigation has gone quiet while JPC still spends millions of fogging and deep-cleaning.

In Friday’s Council sitting the Mayor gallantly suggested that the Covid expenditure reports be sent to the Section 79 oversight committees for interrogation, yet for nearly a year these committees have not received any reports to scrutinise, and the Mayor is a serial no-shower at the Section 79 Governance Committee which he is accountable to. I proposed a dedicated ad-hoc committee to specially deal with Covid corruption, but this was shot down.

It still doesn’t make any sense that officials who in charge of supply chain management think that they can get away with this abuse of residents’ money by claiming that they didn’t have the right controls in place – it takes common sense to know that you don’t appoint a one-month old catering company which isn’t on the Central Supplier Database to supply a 100ml bottle of sanitiser for R3000. Yet to date no action has been taken against these people.

This is a clear-cut case that there is no leadership or sense of accountability by Mayor Makhubo, who continues to shrug his shoulders or pass the buck when it comes to over R600 million. The DA stands for a clean, well-run city which residents of Johannesburg deserve. We will continue to demand that the Mayor comes clean and that corruption officials are fired.