Hawks swoop on George Municipality again over alleged fraud, corruption

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The Hawks swooped on the George Municipality this week as part of a search and seizure operation.

While it was not disclosed what the commercial crime investigation team had seized, Regional Hawks spokesperson Captain Philani Nkwalase said several offices and the private homes of people of interest were raided on Tuesday.

“This investigation relates to the alleged fraud and corruption emanating from the failure to follow due process regarding the appointment and filling of vacant posts,” he said.

He could not name anyone at this stage, as no one had yet been charged or arrested.

Nkwalase said the investigation was separate and unrelated to the previous search and seizure at the same municipality.

In April last year, electronic equipment and documents were seized at the municipality offices.

At the time, Nkwalase said the investigation centred around allegations of fraud and corruption in procurement processes and the awarding of tenders.

That operation was carried out at business premises and private homes of those being investigated.

‘It is mind boggling’

Activities at the municipality carried on as normal on Wednesday, with all staff present.

Municipal manager Trevor Botha said the Hawks operation related to the legal processes followed in the appointment of a senior official.

“The Hawks are at liberty to perform their duties as required. What is of concern is the process followed regarding a governance and administrative matter,” he said.

“It is mind boggling that a reported case, pertaining to the unprocedural and irregular investment of R350m by a senior official, has to date not elicited the same response from senior provincial politicians or the Hawks,” he said.

In April, Good party leader Patricia de Lille laid a complaint with the Public Protector over what she alleged was an investment and kickback scheme in the DA-led George Municipality, involving a councillor and his son.

According to De Lille, evidence showed that the municipality had invested R350m of its reserve funds at financial institutions, and that handling fees were paid to the son of a George councillor, amounting to nearly R400 000 in the first six months of the project.

De Lille’s claims ‘unfounded’

However, Western Cape Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC Anton Bredell said at the time that De Lille’s claims were unfounded. He said the provincial government was fully aware of the allegations.

“A criminal matter has been reported to the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) in George – known as the Hawks – and the provincial department has been in frequent contact with the DPCI in this regard.

“In addition, the municipality has procured the services of a forensic firm to investigate the allegations and the provincial department is further aware that the municipality has in fact, already initiated disciplinary processes against the implicated municipal official.”

He said the provincial government was also aware that the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) might explore the possibility of a proclamation into the matter if there was sufficient cause.

Botha said on Wednesday that their continued cooperation and assistance was being given to the Hawks following the operation on Tuesday.

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