EXCLUSIVE | Discipline me if I’ve done anything wrong – Tshwane COO calls mayor’s bluff

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As the impasse over who will replace controversial City of Tshwane City Manager Moeketsi Mosola continues, chief operating officer (COO) James Murphy has asked the mayor, Stevens Mokgalapa, to institute disciplinary action against him so he can clear his name.

A day after the Tshwane council resolved to appoint Murphy as the acting city manager, pending Mosola’s vacating of office, Mokgalapa made a U-turn and asked for a special council sitting to rescind the resolutions made on July 25.

Mokgalapa tried to use a “discredited” forensic investigative report to block Murphy’s appointment.

But in correspondence News24 has seen, Murphy appears to have called the mayor’s bluff, asking that disciplinary steps be taken against him so that he can respond to the allegations against him.

“I am requesting the City of Tshwane to start a disciplinary process regarding the alleged financial misconduct to establish guilt or clear my name… I cannot act as the city manager of Tshwane until my name is cleared…” Murphy wrote on August 29.

The council resolved that Murphy would act as the city manager for a period that is not longer than three months after Mosola vacates the position.

During the same council sitting, Mosola and the City reached a controversial settlement agreement, which included that Mosola would leave office with full pay if the City agreed to leave the GladAfrica matter.

Legal bind

Mosola was supposed to vacate the office by the end of July, a deadline that he missed, and which was later extended to August 31.

Instead of signing the separation agreement on July 31, Mosola appointed his other deputy, Lorette Tredoux, to act in his place while he was on “special leave”.

This put the City in a legal bind – the council had appointed Murphy but Mosola had appointed Tredoux.

Mokgalapa’s attempt to block Murphy’s appointment arises from a forensic investigation the City commissioned in 2017, into allegations that Murphy and others were responsible for payments to NGOs in a drug-combating programme gone wrong.

The City’s internal auditing department found numerous errors in that report and withdrew it in June 2018, clearing Murphy of wrongdoing.

The department said there was no evidence that Murphy was implicated in the NGO scandal.

But by then, the auditor general had picked up the report and used it to recommend that action be taken against Murphy and others.

No action despite ‘urgent instruction’

All the while, Murphy had been the City’s COO without any mention of that recommendation.

This, despite a letter from Mosola in March 2019, which News24 has seen, to the City’s legal department, instructing them to take action against Murphy and others supposedly implicated in the NGO matter.

Mosola said this was an “urgent instruction” and yet, no action was taken against Murphy.

The embattled DA-led municipality has been rocked by that scandal, as well as Mokgalapa’s controversial decision to settle with Mosola instead of taking action against him.

It has had political ramifications for the DA’s first foray into the running of the capital city, which it has done in partnership with the EFF since 2016.

The DA’s promised no-nonsense approach to corruption has been brought into question.

Mosola was responsible for the City’s multimillion-rand GladAfrica contract in which the company was appointed as project managers in the City’s infrastructure projects.

Irregular expenditure

The auditor general and independent legal opinions found that the contract was irregularly awarded and it was declared irregular expenditure.

News24 previously reported that the DA had effectively placed Tshwane under political administration.

The City has been embroiled in controversy over Mosola ever since, with several attempts to have the latter investigated or suspended over his role in the contract having fallen flat in council.

Murphy and Mosola had words over GladAfrica, which Murphy was opposed to, leading to a strained relationship, News24 understands.

Mosola himself is implicated in the auditor general’s report into GladAfrica, which has not been discredited, and the City has not taken disciplinary action against him.

Despite this, the discredited forensic report supposedly implicating Murphy was used by Mokgalapa in a failed attempt to block Murphy’s appointment at a council sitting on August 20.

News24 can now report that during an extended council sitting on Thursday, Murphy insisted on addressing a multi-party caucus on the impasse.

Investigation nearing completion

In a letter to Mokgalapa dated August 29, Murphy wrote that he had asked for clarity on the city manager fiasco in a letter dated August 21, but no response was forthcoming.

“My name has been quoted in public media linking me to an alleged ‘financial misconduct’ without giving me an opportunity to state my case. A person with allegations of financial or other serious misconduct (proven or alleged) should not take such a critical position as an accounting officer of a metropolitan municipality.”

Murphy said he had not asked to be nominated to act in the position and he was still not doing so.

“However, as a public servant, I will reconsider any nomination to serve or perform public duty after my name is cleared. The citizens and employees of the City of Tshwane come first according to my personal principles,” Murphy wrote.

In response to questions, mayoral spokesperson Omogolo Taunyane said Mokgalapa would not comment on any issues related to the city manager until the separation agreement with Mosola was signed.

“The resolution stipulates August 31, 2019, as the date by which the agreement ought to be made final. The circumstances remain unchanged: Lorette Tredoux is the acting city manager unless a council resolution changes that.

“The (City’s) Audit Performance Committee instituted a forensic investigation that will provide the City with appropriate action to take thereafter. This investigation is nearing completion will be tabled before council.”

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