PLETTENBERG BAY NEWS - Forensic investigators who delved into alleged irregularities within the Bitou Municipality, recommended that disciplinary action be taken against mayor Peter Lobese – among other officials – over alleged mismanagement of grant-in-aid funding.
"It appears Lobese abused his position as executive mayor to strengthen his political party, the AUF. Grant-in-aid funds were merely handed out to members of the public, without being legitimate non-profit organisations. In addition, the office of the executive mayor assisted members of the public to irregularly register organisations to enable them to apply for grant-in-aid," the report, of which Knysna-Plett Herald has a copy, concluded.
"During our interview with Lobese, he portrayed grants-in-aid as a general mayoral discretionary fund.
"It therefore suggests that he does not understand the regulatory aspects of transferring funds to organisations and bodies outside of government," the report stated.
According to the report the investigation revealed the following: beneficiaries had been registered without having legitimate constitutions; payments had been made to beneficiaries with incomplete application forms and without having provided the required supporting documentation; payments had been made without proper business plans or which included prohibited expenditure items; and no financial reporting or auditing on the recipient had been undertaken. It also found "significant discrepancies" between the amounts of funding applied for and the actual payments and that funding had been utilised for reasons not in line with the overall objectives and strategies of the municipality.
According to documentation contained in the report the financial implication approved for grant-in-aid funding was R1 305 000 in 2017, but the allocations amounted to R1 590 000.
In one instance, based on information contained in an internal memorandum obtained by the investigators, an amount of R100 000 was allocated to a beneficiary.
Investigators found that the secretary of the beneficiary organisation was married to an official within the mayor's office at the time and used her maiden name on the application, seemingly to "hide" her marriage.
It is further alleged that after this amount had been paid, the principal of the organisation was instructed to withdraw R65 000 of the money and hand it to the secretary.
Lobese said the report had been received by the municipality and had been properly processed in terms of the prescribed legislation and the council adopted a "rules-based process to implement its recommendations".
'Several officials dismissed'
He indicated that several officials implicated in the report had been dismissed or voluntarily resigned. "The remaining allegations against the other persons and including the office of the mayor are being subjected to an independent scrutiny in the interest of accountability and transparency; this is done through the council," Lobese said.
Investigators recommended disciplinary action against several individuals including the mayor over non-compliance in terms of grant-in-aid regulations.
They also recommended criminal action in terms of corruption, fraud and racketeering, against implicated officials and organisations.
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