POLITICAL NEWS - Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba has been accused of pulling strings to get Field Band Foundation (FBF) – a non-government organisation he chaired for over a decade – a three-year contract worth R11 million in a potential conflict-of-interest scandal that has resulted in a forensic investigation.
The contract has since been suspended pending this investigation after the alleged conflict-of-interest led to an outcry in the city council, with Mashaba accused of using his influence to benefit the foundation.
Mashaba’s office confirmed to The Star that FBF received R3.5 million despite the suspension of the contract, but the office told The Citizen they denied any conflict of influence, adding that the FBF did important work which should not be overshadowed by the controversy.
City spokesperson Olabeng Molatlhwa said: “During the August 2019 council meeting, it was alleged that the Field Band Foundation had continued receiving payments from the City, despite an earlier council resolution to hold all payments to the foundation.”
Given that such payments fall outside the purview of the executive mayor, as they are an administrative function of the City, neither mayor Herman Mashaba nor city manager Dr Ndivho Lukhwareni had knowledge of such payments.
Mashaba informed Council that he would request a forensic investigation into the matter. That investigation by the Speaker of Council is nearing completion and it is anticipated that it will be tabled during the September Council sitting.
“The City of Joburg and the office of the executive mayor wish to again dismiss the existence of a conflict of interest in relation to the Field Band Foundation doing important work for the City. It should be noted that Mayor Herman Mashaba declared his historic relationship with the Field Band Foundation prior to the City entering into a funding agreement with the Field Band Foundation in the form of a discretionary grant. Crucially, the mayor had resigned from the board of the Field Band Foundation prior to agreeing to run as a mayoral candidate.
“It would be premature to comment further on these allegations until the forensic investigation is concluded, save to say that if any wrongdoing is found, appropriate action will be taken in accordance with the City’s legislative and policy framework. This includes and is not limited to disciplinary, civil and/or criminal action.
“Lastly, it is important to emphasise that the Field Band Foundation has over the last 20 years played a crucial role in assisting youths from disadvantaged communities in providing them with a safe environment to flourish and keep them off the streets where children far too often fall prey to drug dealers and other forms of social ills. This remarkable track record has resulted in the foundation receiving financial support from other spheres of government, local and international donors.
“It is regrettable that such important work with vulnerable youth is being politicised,” he said.
The foundation reportedly provides life skills and musical activities to 600 beneficiaries in areas such as Cosmos City, Orange Farm, Westbury, and Klipfontein View.
“The foundation is confident that we complied strictly with the formal procurement processes required by the City,” a representative told The Star.
The NGO also said they were only told of the suspension eight months after the council resolution was taken.