A fresh set of claims and counterclaims between senior officials about unauthorised investigations and leaked information mark the latest scandal to rock the City of Cape Town.
The claims reveal the depth of mistrust between some of the City’s most senior officials.
On Tuesday, it emerged that City Manager Achmat Ebrahim alleged that Craig Kesson, the executive director in Mayor Patricia de Lille’s office, had gained access to about a thousand forensic reports without the required permission.
It also emerged that Kesson levelled allegations of misconduct, relating to disciplinary regulations for senior managers, against Ebrahim.
Kesson also made various allegations against De Lille, including that she planned to publicly discredit a senior City staffer, who questioned alleged tender irregularities, and asked that a report into a possible R43m loss regarding another tender be made to “go away”.
On Tuesday the council held a confidential special meeting and unanimously resolved that the City’s audit and performance audit committee be instructed to appoint an independent investigator to probe allegations against Kesson, Ebrahim and Melissa Whitehead, the commissioner of the transport and urban development authority.
Documents relating to this meeting were uploaded onto the City’s website later on Tuesday.
‘Leaked reports and unauthorised probes’
In his complaints against Kesson, Ebrahim alleged Kesson had “leaked and/or caused to be leaked confidential information of the City”.
This related to about 1 000 forensic reports Kesson had allegedly instructed be retrieved.
“(Kesson) committed an act of serious misconduct when he instructed the scanning of the past five years’ forensic reports onto a number of external storage devices,” Ebrahim’s complaint said.
It is also alleged that Kesson had conducted investigations into certain staff members, but had no authority to do so.
“Given his actions to date, he has demonstrated his inability to appreciate and apply the prescript of the law,” Ebrahim’s complaint against Kesson said.
“It is reiterated that he abused his authority conducting unauthorised investigations into senior managers.”
It said Kesson had conducted an investigation or “review” into finalised forensic investigations authorised by the City’s speaker and which dealt with transgressions of councillors.
But Ebrahim said Kesson had not had the speaker’s permission to do so.
Info leaks flagged as a risk
“As a result of his aforementioned actions, the Forensic Services branch has elevated the leaking of confidential information as a risk on its risk register,” Ebrahim said.
His complaint said that, as the executive director of the mayor’s office, there was “very real potential” that Kesson could interfere with witnesses in the matter.
Ebrahim said Kesson had assumed responsibility for the probity function.
He said the portfolio manager of probity, Lindiwe Ndaba, had been suspended and faced similar disciplinary charges to that of Kesson.
Kesson, in an affidavit which forms part of the matter, said De Lille threatened to investigate Ndaba.
In his affidavit he said this amounted to “bullying, harassment and victimisation”.
According to Kesson, De Lille believed Ndaba investigated Ebrahim without authorisation from council.
Ndaba, according to Kesson’s affidavit, had to take leave due to “severe stress” relating to “undue interference with the independence of Probity Services”.
It is not the first time De Lille has found herself the subject of allegations made by staffers, nor the first time internal information has allegedly been leaked and investigations conducted without the necessary go-ahead.
City investigations unit shut down, overstepped mandate
In September it emerged De Lille had ordered the shutting down of the City of Cape Town’s special investigations unit (SIU).
The City of Cape Town had said its internal investigations unit overstepped its mandate by looking into councillors and was conducting investigations only meant to be carried out by police officers.
Mayoral committee member for safety, security and social services JP Smith, oversees the unit, which now has a new mandate.
Details about tensions between De Lille and Smith are contained in a submission he made about De Lille’s order to have the SIU shut down.
Smith’s submission, dated August 20, was sent to, among others, DA leader Mmusi Maimane.
In it, Smith did not directly make accusations against De Lille, but said claims and rumours had been heard from others. Claims included that some City councillors may have been involved in a murder and that building done at her home may not have been legal.
In October the DA placed both De Lille and Smith on special leave from party activities in the Cape metropole because of the spat.
Earlier this month, Smith detailed to News24 how he believed he was the target of an extreme smear campaign which involved individuals apparently registering his details with substance abuse facilities so it appeared he needed help for drug, alcohol and gambling addictions.
He told News24 that the smear campaign against him started on August 24.[Source: News24]