Dubious contracts and a staff exodus have shaken the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA) under its IFP-aligned board over the past year, while the city’s mayor, Herman Mashaba, has been accused of ignoring corruption at the agency to appease his coalition partners.

At the heart of the internal ructions at the JRA are alleged attempts by its chairperson to control tenders – as well as a disputed contract to repair the M1 Double Decker highway, a major Johannesburg thoroughfare.

Matters came to a head in August last year when three high level staff left the entity, including managing director Sean Phillips. This was after the chair, Sipho Tshabalala, pushed for the establishment of a project management unit (PMU) which would have taken control of tenders out of the hands of the JRA’s own departments and handed decision-making over to private contractors.

Phillips and others say Tshabalala improperly involved himself in tenders and operational matters, pointing out that the PMU is reminiscent of the looting of the Limpopo roads and transport department in 2011, involving a project management unit run by a company linked to EFF leader Julius Malema.

Tshabalala has denied the allegations, claiming the PMU proposal was based on a successful Cape Town model. ….more