“I find no basis to support the allegations of misconduct levelled against the municipal manager, Coenie Groenewald and accordingly recommend that the allegations be dismissed.”

These were the findings of Adv Pieter Schalk Bothma in an investigation that was launched after a complaint was lodged in March by resident Anton Kruger, who is the administrator of several public participation sites on Facebook and a member of a group calling itself LiberTAS (Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability).

At a special council meeting convened on 9 March, it was unanimously recommended by all parties that while council found no evidence to support the allegations of misconduct by Groenewald, in the interest of openness and transparency a special investigator would be appointed.

The complaint alleged that, in accordance with the municipality’s Unauthorised, Irregular or Fruitless and Wasteful Expenditure Policy, Groenewald had “demonstrated poor judgement” in awarding a turnkey property development tender to the value of R600 million to construction group ASLA Devco, after the tender had initially been awarded to M5 Developments by the municipality’s Tender Adjudication Committee in 2007.

The complaint further stated that ratepayers’ money was spent wastefully in defending this decision in the ensuing court cases in both the Cape High Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal, both of which found against the decision made by Groenewald to award the tender to ASLA. In addition, LiberTAS argued that the appeal emphasised “how bad Groenewald’s judgement was” and that it was only done to “clear his name” at the expense of ratepayers.

The group further stated in its complaint that it wanted to know how much money had been spent on legal fees and demanded that Groenewald should reimburse the municipality.

In his report Bothma stated that the finalisation of this investigation was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, but that he had met with Groenewald on 12 June. “I have, however, not had the benefit of meeting with Kruger, or any other officer of LiberTAS, nor have I received any further submissions on their behalf,” said Bothma. He listed more than 10 separate occasions between 14 May and 10 June on which he had tried to arrange meetings between him and Kruger. On 10 June he was informed that LiberTAS no longer wished to meet with him, but that written submissions would be done. No submissions were received.

Bothma further stated in his report that the tender litigation appeared to have been a dispute between M5 and ASLA and that the municipality should be commended for the role it played in concluding a memorandum of understanding aimed at ameliorating any adverse effect the prosecution of the appeal may have had on the implementation of the tender.

The dismissal of the allegations against Groenewald comes shortly before the municipal manager’s retirement at the end of October this year. The name of the preferred candidate to replace him will be announced at the council meeting on 24 June.

A total of 28 applications were received for the position and after screening, three were invited to attend the evaluation and interview sessions for the post. One candidate withdrew from the interview session.

Mayor Dudley Coetzee is expected to conclude the terms and conditions of employment with the candidate in due course.

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