De Lille may be ‘guilty of gross misconduct’ - Bowman Gilfillan report

Cape Town mayor alleged to have prevented municipal manager from reporting allegations against Melissa Whitehead to council

Confidential report reveals De Lille may be ‘guilty of gross misconduct’

Cape Town – A confidential report by independent investigators on several serious allegations against top City of Cape Town officials implicated in claims of covering up irregularities has found that there is evidence to suggest that Mayor Patricia de Lille may be guilty of gross misconduct.

News24 has seen a copy of the report, dated December 29 and based on an independent investigation by Bowman Gilfillan Attorneys, which has not been made public.

It contains scathing allegations against some of the City's most senior officials and is the latest in a long list of scandals to rock the City.

De Lille is seeking legal advice on the report which she says contains errors that were never rectified, despite her having pointed them out.

News24 understands that the DA's regional executive committee is set to meet imminently about whether De Lille should continue in her role as mayor.

Deliberations on De Lille

This coming weekend the DA's federal executive will also consider her response detailing why she should not resign.

De Lille's response is in relation to a report based on the findings of a subcommittee, headed by parliamentary whip John Steenhuisen and established by the DA's federal executive to look into tensions and political management in the City of Cape Town.

After her response has been considered at the weekend, De Lille will then be advised on the findings of the federal executive.

On Friday, in a special confidential meeting, the City council ordered an investigation into De Lille over allegations that she prevented City manager Achmat Ebrahim from reporting to the council allegations against Melissa Whitehead, the commissioner of the transport and urban development authority.

During the meeting it emerged that Whitehead faces four charges relating to, among other matters, the appointment of friends and alleged interference in the City's Foreshore Freeway project tender process.

Ebrahim is said to face two charges. He alleged, in documents, that De Lille had told him not to report to council claims against Whitehead, relating to alleged irregularities dating back to 2014.

On Friday both were given seven days to explain why they should not be suspended.

Key figures interviewed

Bowman Gilfillan Attorneys said key individuals had been interviewed and supporting evidence was reviewed when investigating the allegations.

It said 21 interviews with key individuals were conducted.

These individuals included De Lille, Ebrahim, Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson, transport and urban development mayoral committee member Brett Herron, and manager of forensic services Renee Garman.

The independent investigators said based on interviews conducted and other evidence, it was concluded that the allegations contained in a forensic report against Whitehead were "indeed serious and warranted further investigation at the time".

'Gross misconduct'

"As stated above, on [Ebrahim's] own version, and supported by the documentation referred to above, the [city manager], the [executive mayor] and possibly a number of other officials may be guilty of inter alia gross misconduct with regard to their failure to report the matter to council as was clearly required," it said.

The independent investigators' report said the forensic report presented prima facie evidence that "the commissioner (Whitehead) was involved in irregular expenditure in relation to payments in the aggregate amount of R43 801 807.06 made to Volvo for 29 bus chassis."

It also found that payments totalling R29 584 368 made to Scania for 24 bus chassis during June 2014 were irregular.

'Compelling evidence'

"In our opinion, [the] forensic report… contains compelling evidence that the commissioner caused significant irregular expenditure to be incurred by the city and we recommend that a disciplinary hearing be instituted against her in this regard," the independent investigators' report found.

It said that Ebrahim had admitted that there was no justification for not reporting allegations against Whitehead to the city council.

"In his interview with us, [Ebrahim] conceded this. In his defence, he contends that he took all reasonable steps on his part to comply with his obligations, and that he was ultimately precluded from doing so by the instructions to the contrary from [De Lille]," the independent investigators' report said.

"On his own version, [Ebrahim] failed to comply with his obligations in this regard."

His explanation that he was acting on De Lille's orders justified a disciplinary process to test what he said.

'Serious concern about De Lille's conduct'

The independent investigators' report said Ebrahim's version "gives rise to a serious concern about the conduct of [De Lille] in relation to this allegation".

On Friday De Lille issued a statement saying she was getting advice from her legal team as she found the Bowman Gilfillan report contained errors.

She said she had written to the firm on January 3, pointing out factual errors which related to her.

"Amongst those errors was a 'factual finding' that established that I had 'in fact' provided the DA leader with a copy of certain forensic reports. They also reported that I had confirmed in my interview with them that I had done so," De Lille said.

"What I had in fact stated in my interview with them was that I had certainly not provided the DA leader or any other unauthorised persons with copies of any forensic reports."

De Lille said she was informed the report would not be amended.

She said she felt "unfairly and unnecessarily defamed and embarrassed" by it.