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Public protector launches probe into City’s alleged maladministration over ‘irregular appointments’

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane

Published Oct 28, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - The public protector has confirmed that they are investigating a complaint of alleged maladministration by the City of Cape Town in relation to “irregular appointments” and an alleged “fabricated protected disclosure”.

“The allegations include that the City failed to investigate a breach of its fraud policy and the Protected Disclosure Act regarding a fabrication in a protected disclosure affidavit and to take the necessary action against Mr Craig Kesson (City executive director: corporate services),” said Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, in relation to the first allegation.

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Kesson, who will be joining PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as a partner next month, made headlines when questions were raised about transparency and a possible conflict of interest in relation to contracts awarded to PwC by his department, which accumulated to millions of rand in invoices.

Other allegations being investigated, Segalwe added, were: “The mayoral committee unlawfully agreed to the payment of an amount of R850 000 to Mr Kesson and R650 000 to Ms Lindiwe Ndaba (City risk committee chairperson), for the production of this affidavit as well as for pain and suffering; and that the City contravened the recruitment and selection policy and the requirements of Mr Kesson to the position of executive director: corporate services. The matter is ongoing,” he said.

Kesson was appointed to the position in 2018.

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His salary, according to the City’s annual report 2019/2021, was more than R3 million, including benefits.

In its response to the allegations, the City said it had fully “co-operated with the public protector’s inquiry and had provided all the information necessary for them to make an informed decision including the Bowman’s investigation report”.

City spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo said: “The complaint to the public protector is from Melissa Whitehead, an aggrieved former City employee regarding events from four years ago.

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“Ms Whitehead was found guilty of nepotism and tender manipulation by an independent disciplinary process. The advocate who handed down her guilty charge found her to be grossly dishonest and unethical. Ms Whitehead was still facing charges of tender fraud before resigning from the City without notice. She has made a number of accusations repeatedly against Mr Kesson, all of which were dismissed by independent investigations.

“Mr Kesson was found, by an independent investigation, to have correctly made a protected disclosure exposing the actions of Ms Whitehead. He was appointed after following a legislated competitive process as vetted by the Provincial Department of Local Government.

“Mr Kesson and Ms Ndaba were compensated based on a legal opinion obtained and considered by council prior to it making its decision in this regard.”

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Whitehead responded that she was not aggrieved and confirmed she had put in the complaint.

“I can confirm I did put in the complaint. I can confirm that it is all backed with concrete evidence. I’m not disgruntled, I left because I don’t want to work for a City who believes in apartheid.

“Craig Kesson lied five times in a protected disclosure affidavit before the City which led to the Bowman’s investigation.

“I wrote to the City to please investigate in terms of the fraud and corruption policy, that he lied, long before the ruling came out in relation to my disciplinary.

“I was not found guilty of nepotism or tender fraud, that is totally incorrect. I was charged on four counts and found guilty on two. The first one was that I was found guilty for not adequately disclosing that I knew one candidate and another candidate in relation to an interview panel I sat on. I disclosed I knew them, but they found I didn’t disclose enough.

“The second charge was in relation to me being part of a bid evaluation committee for a project and some of the requirements were that the proposals had to include social housing.

“One of the bidders proposed affordable housing units which were directly underneath the highway. I objected to this because it would have resulted in total squalor worse than apartheid.”

Kesson and Ndaba did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.

PwC said they had nothing further to add.

Cape Times

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