Durban - Former city manager Michael Sutcliffe has launched a R10.5 million lawsuit against his successor and eThekwini Municipality over a claim of incompetence or dirty dealings.
His legal team was this week in the process of serving a summons for damages on both City Manager Sibusiso Sithole and the metro, wanting R2.5 million in general damages, and R8 million in special damages arising from loss of income.
Sutcliffe, presently finishing a consultancy contract abroad, also confirmed in a statement on Friday that he was pressing ahead with legal action against auditors Zodwa Manase and Associates, the authors of a forensic audit report which “opened the door for misreporting and damaging allegations”.
The former city boss said Sithole had received the Manase Forensic Report in January. Having had time to consider it, he had told reporters that the municipality had resolved to pursue criminal charges against him and take legal action to recover R1.1 million.
Sithole had claimed this money had been lost due to Sutcliffe’s failure to report fraud. The Manase report, Sutcliffe said in the summons, did not find that he had in any way been responsible for losses of R1.1 million or any other amount.
“Neither of these statements is correct,” Sutcliffe said on Friday.
“The Manase report had made no such claims against me nor had eThekwini Municipality resolved in this way.
“Yet by making these statements, Sibusiso Sithole implied that I was guilty of criminal conduct and was derelict in my duty as a city manager at the time of failing to report misconduct.”
Sithole’s statements, reported in newspapers, were made knowing they were false, the summons said, or “with reckless indifference as to their accuracy”.
Sutcliffe said he had further briefed his legal team to act against Manase and Associates, “as I do not believe that her team sufficiently researched, nor accurately reported on matter relating to the eThekwini Municipality”.
There were instances where she failed to probe certain things that had been brought to her attention, he said. In others, “she chose not to use vital information that was given to her”.
“In failing to check the accuracy of matters, my name was brought into disrepute.”
He said the firm had acknowledged a letter from his lawyers, seeking corrections to the report and an unreserved apology. But it had referred his letter to the provincial Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs.
The full Manase report remains under wraps. Early this year, all that was published was a summary of it by the MEC for Co-Operative Governance, Nomusa Dube.
The council has promised a few times to release it, and mayor James Nxumalo declared in August that it would do so in December once all the internal disciplinary hearings have been completed.
Last month, DA leaders said they were briefing attorneys on a court application to force the report’s release. However they would not say when it would be lodged.
MP and spokesman on co-operative governance, John Steenhuisen, said the ANC was withholding it because it wanted to protect some of its leaders, who might be implicated in graft and maladministration.
Steenhuisen said it was clear from a letter written by Sutcliffe that senior ANC leaders had a hand in the maladministration uncovered by the Manase investigators.
Sutcliffe was reported in the Daily News to have written to the National Treasury in February last year raising the alarm about rampant corruption at the municipality.
The former city manager also revealed how he had been put under political pressure to issue tenders to senior ANC members.
Steenhuisen said it was highly unlikely the ANC would now release the report, especially in the lead-up to the ANC’s crucial conference in Mangaung (Bloemfontein) in December.
Lennox Mabaso, spokesman for Co-operative Governance, dismissed the DA’s planned action as “brazen lust for cheap publicity”.