STATEMENT BY COUNCILLOR BRETT HERRON, MAYORAL COMMMITTEE
25 OCTOBER 2018
Bowman Gilfillan, attorneys, were appointed to conduct an investigation into a number of alleged irregularities within the City of Cape Town. Those alleged irregularities included the process surrounding the procurement of electric buses. Inexplicably, there are two conflicting Bowmans reports. Only one of them attempts to implicate me in wrong doing – and not with direct or prima facie evidence, as one would expect from an investigation conducted by a lawyer, but based on nothing.
The one Bowmans report states that my involvement in the procurement process “has not been sufficiently established”. This is a flagrant misrepresentation of the indisputable facts contained in their own report, and is therefore a false conclusion as the report contains no allegation, no prima facie evidence, no direct evidence, no inference nor any suggestion by any person or document that I was involved in the procurement process at all.
The conclusion that my involvement has not been “sufficiently established” and their recommendation that my involvement be investigated is irrational and a non sequitur. As a result I can only surmise that it is based on their own unchecked bias, alternatively it is based on external influences that are not disclosed in the report. The conclusion that something corrupt happened, or that I influenced the procurement process, is so poorly constructed, it is hard to believe it was properly considered by a legally qualified person before being presented.
I wish to state categorically that I have nothing to hide and that my conduct at all times has been beyond reproach. When these allegations of an improper procurement process first emerged in November 2017, I wrote to the Speaker of Council requesting that the allegations be investigated. Now that an investigation has taken place, at great expense to our ratepayers, the investigators are not satisfied with their inability to find any proof of wrong-doing on my part so they recommend another investigation. This was their task in the first place.
"I’m shocked by the so-called findings of the Bowmans Report and reject their conclusions"
— Brett Herron, MMC Transport & Urban Development
Much is made of a train trip I made whilst a city delegation was in China exploring electric buses. The train trip was always part of the planned itinerary and should have been paid for by the City. The City’s Travel Office makes travel arrangements once a trip is approved, not me. It seems that the Travel Office did not book or pay for the train trip – which was meant to be a day trip. This is inexplicable. It appears that Bowmans did not bother to enquire from the Travel Office why the train trip was not booked and paid by the City. There is no explanation from Bowmans why the personnel in the Travel Office were not interviewed, and asked this simple question.
I was unaware that the itinerary changed at the last minute and the trip, by train, to Changsa would no longer be a day trip but would involve spending the night in Changsa. It is alleged, without proof, that BYD paid for the hotel and train fare and Bowmans concludes that this is a personal benefit or a gift to me which I should have declared; yet they claim they are unable to determine the value of the benefit or gift.
A simple on-line booking search for the hotel we stayed in, reveals the current rate is $35 per night. The accommodation could hardly be considered a benefit or a gift. Bowmans concludes that the train trip and overnight stay in Changsa resulted in “fruitless and wasteful expenditure” in that we did not use the hotel room in Shenzhen booked and paid for by the City for that one night, and, so they conclude, the three members of the delegation need to repay the City the sum R6600. It is not clear how they arrive at that figure. It is clearly arbitrary, as the trip report indicates that the room rate at the Shenzhen hotel was R2800 per room per night. I vehemently deny that I am responsible to repay this sum or any sum at all as I was in no way responsible for the last minute changes which resulted in the change to the itinerary and the wasted hotel cost.
Bowmans do not address the question as to whether the night booked at the Shenzhen hotel could have been cancelled, once the itinerary had changed, at no penalty. Again, this is a simple question that the Travel Office could have answered had they been asked. I am shocked by the Bowmans report. It is irrational and makes adverse findings without proper consideration of the evidence, and without giving me the opportunity to address questions they conclude are “inexplicable”.
I attended two interviews with them. I would have attended a dozen more if they had asked. Given my availability to meet with them, and answer any question they may have had, it is unacceptable to conclude that in some respects I have failed to adequately explain myself – when they haven’t asked me to do so. I totally reject the conclusions reached by Bowmans as irrational, baseless and unsubstantiated by their own findings of fact and I am left with no option but to conclude that there is something deeply flawed and suspicious about this investigation and the concluding reports. Ironically, the appointment of Bowman’s for this investigation did not itself follow usual procurement processes, but that these were instead “dispensed” with according to a report submitted to the City’s Supply Chain Management.
It needs to be noted that Bowmans state that they have not been able to confirm the authenticity or validity of information made available to them. This is surprising. Further, they submit that they are unable to confirm that they have had sight of all documentation pertaining to the matters on which they are reporting. It is a concern that a reputable law firm that has been tasked to perform an investigation, has by its own admission, not authenticated the information. In my view no credence can be attached to this report when the investigators have failed to obtain all relevant information. It is clear that they have arrived at conclusions based on their own incomplete investigations.
I have handed the report to my lawyers and I intend to take whatever steps are deemed necessary to clear my good name. I shall pursue a claim for damages against those who have sought to unlawfully and without just cause insult and defame me and damage my reputation.