A senior official from the City of Joburg’s Department of Economic Development has been suspended pending allegations of misconduct relating to contracts and payments linked to the city’s broadband project.

The unnamed official was implicated in an independent forensic investigation into the R1.3 billion Johannesburg Broadband Network Project by the Metropolitan Trading Company (MTC).

Tenders were awarded for the 900km broadband network in 2015. The acquisition was done through MTC, a municipal owned entity, which possessed no viable business plan nor had requisite capacity to run a broadband operation of this size, according to Mayor Herman Mashaba.

The tender  was originally awarded on 19th December 2008 to a consortium. On 31st July 2014, the city terminated the agreement so as to operate the network itself through the MTC.

The official is also accused of standing in the way of investigations by refusing to allow investigators access to a number of devices which are believed to contain crucial information relating to the investigation.

“The city has obtained a court order to create mirror images of the official’s devices so as to preserve all information on the devices to ensure that potential key evidence relating to this investigation is not destroyed. The mirror imaging of the devices will be conducted by independent technology experts in the presence of the official and an independent supervising practicing attorney appointed by the court,” Mashaba said.

At the start of operations on 30th September 2015, the MTC ended the 2015/16 financial year with a net loss of R54 million.

“By February of this year, MTC still continued to function with no viable business plan. In his most recent report, the Auditor General also found that the performance of MTC could not be assessed due to the lack of a viable business plan from the entity,” Mashaba explained.

“As a city, we cannot allow officials to undermine our residents’ right to know how and why their hard earned money was used to create an inefficiently operated entity which has drained the city of resources needed for service delivery.”

 

[Image – CC South African tourism]