EXCLUSIVE: Tshwane mayor used hotly contested report in botched attempt to block acting city manager appointment

As the controversy over the City of Tshwane's most senior manager's job continues, Tshwane mayor Stephens Mokgalapa relied on a highly controversial and hotly disputed report in an attempt to block the appointment of James Murphy as acting city manager, News24 can reveal. 

The report has also been in the possession of the municipality since December 2018 and has never been used to take action against Murphy, until the eve of his appointment as acting city manager. 

It is contained in an Auditor-General's report. That report in the main is not contested, but there is a forensic investigation included in that report which was apparently erroneously included in information given to the Auditor-General by the City.

The forensic report, by an outside forensic firm, purports to implicate Murphy in the misallocation of funds to NGOs three years ago. But the City's internal audit department said it was flawed and rejected it, and said that it cleared Murphy of any wrongdoing.

READ: Tshwane special council sitting fails to reach decision on acting city manager

The report was also brought to Mokgalapa's attention the day after council voted to appoint Murphy, raising questions about the timing of its emergence.

Murphy, currently the City's Chief Operating Officer (COO), was to be appointed as the City's acting city manager when the incumbent, Moeketsi Mosola was supposed to leave office at the end of July.

Mosola was supposed to end his tenure with a separation agreement with the municipality on July 31. This was agreed to by way of a council resolution on July 25, but Mosola did not sign the agreement at the last minute, and instead appointed one of his deputies, Lorette Tredoux to act in his place on July 31.

Murphy is understood to have been at loggerheads with Mosola over the controversial GladAfrica contract.

News24 understands that Murphy warned Mosola over the irregularity of GladAfrica.

He also refused to sign off on a controversial fuel tender in January this year, adding to the tension between the two. 

READ: Eleventh-hour signing of crucial Tshwane tender causes ructions in the capital 

Murphy declined to comment when approached by News24.

Documents submitted by Mokgalapa at an August 20 council meeting show that the mayor was in possession of an Auditor-General's report, which included a confidential management report implicating Murphy.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: Smear campaign targeting acting Tshwane boss falls flat

The August 20 sitting was held behind closed doors, and Mokgalapa's effort to block Murphy's appointment was blocked by the ANC. No decision could be reached and the issue is set to be discussed at the next council sitting, News24 understands.

The management report recommended that action be taken against Murphy.

Mokgalapa says in his report that this was brought to his attention on July 26, the day after Murphy was appointed by council. 

In letters to Mokgalapa this month, the City's internal audit department said the forensic report contained a number of errors and omissions, and it considered it to be untrue.

This has been raised with the Auditor-General, the department said. 

"We can confirm that based on our analysis of (the) report, there was no evidence of wrongdoing by the COO (Murphy)," Tshwane's chief audit executive, Moeketsi Ntsimane wrote to Mokgalapa on August 19.

ALSO READ: Tshwane city manager given extension as separation agreement still not signed

"The report remains ineffective, and unreliable… we don't have any registered investigation implicating the COO and we have not received such allegations."

In a memo dated August 5, Ntsimane wrote that the forensic report was withdrawn in June 2018 because of inaccuracies. But during the Auditor-General's processes, it was erroneously gathered during the audit.

"The Auditor-General relied on a report which had no effect and no force…" Ntsimane wrote.

Nevertheless, Mokgalapa told council on August 20 that the Auditor-General's report could not be overlooked, and said the allegations against Murphy were serious enough to prevent him from becoming the acting city manager.

Despite the disputed report,  Mokgalapa's spokesperson Omogolo Taunyane told News24 that the Auditor-General made a pronouncement, so there is no error.

"The AGs findings remains, as they have not been changed," Taunyane said.

She added that Mokgalapa was relying on the Auditor-General's recommendations in respect to the decision to rescind Murphy.

Taunyane also confirmed on Thursday that Mosola had still not signed the separation agreement, adding that Mokgalapa would not discuss the agreement until it has been confirmed.

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