Suspended City of Cape Town transport director Melissa Whitehead has been paid almost R5m while sitting at home for months, but now the council wants some of its money back, says a Sunday Times report.

It has instructed officials to reclaim more than R400 000 from Whitehead and a former council lawyer, and to launch two new disciplinary procedures against her for alleged misconduct. These are on top of the two that led to the R2.9m-a-year manager being placed on precautionary suspension in January 2018.

According to the report, the council resolved that Whitehead be placed on a new period of ‘special leave’ pending disciplinary hearings into her conduct as head of the city’s Transport & Urban Development Authority. Proceedings against Whitehead began after the council adopted recommendations from legal firm Bowman Gilfillan, which handed over a 2 000-page investigative report in October 2017.

They related to her influence in allegedly improperly appointing UK consultants to set up the transport authority and her alleged relationship to the consultants before they were awarded the contract. Through her lawyers, Whitehead has written to the council demanding that it blacklist Bowman Gilfillan and rescind its report.

Council sources and documents reportedly seen by the Sunday Times indicate the council has also adopted a municipal public accounts committee recommendation that it should recover R400 201.76 from Whitehead and a lawyer who has since resigned from the council.

The bill matches legal fees incurred after the alleged ‘unauthorised termination’ of a MyCiTi bus service tender process without notifying a potential bidder.

According to the council report, Whitehead acted beyond her authority and the lawyer ‘failed to keep case records’.

Full Sunday Times report (subscription needed)