Best paid councils do the worst jobs

2012-03-24 15:02

Managers earn millions despite service delivery protests and financial woes

Six of South Africa’s most expensive municipal management teams preside over councils that are in serious financial trouble.

These teams – municipal managers and all the managers who report to them – earn massive salaries, making their municipalities among the costliest for taxpayers.

But in many cases, their councils have been targeted by the national Treasury because they perform so poorly.

Media24 Investigations has analysed municipal executive budget data from Treasury for the 2010-11 financial year. Among the most interesting findings from this data are:

» Mafikeng in the North-West, with a population of less than 300 000 people, has the second most expensive senior management team in South Africa;

» The R27 million a year spent by Mafikeng on its top executives places it just behind Johannesburg’s spend of R34 million. Joburg is the country’s largest metro, with more than 10 times Mafikeng’s population;

» Smaller municipalities are often outgunning their bigger counterparts in what they are willing to pay for top municipal executives;

» Ten of the country’s most expensive management teams are in municipalities which have populations of fewer than 300 000;

» Some of the best salary packages for municipal managers are found in small municipalities.

In tiny Senqu municipality, which oversees a population of 118 000 people and is based in Lady Grey in the Eastern Cape, the municipal manager earns R1 948 180, data shows;

» Another top earner is Emfuleni municipality’s manager in Vanderbijlpark, Gauteng: data shows the incumbent earns a package of R2 006 200, and;

» The most attractive salary package for a municipal manager is to be found in Johannesburg.

The city manager Trevor Fowler’s yearly package was budgeted at R2 306 030, according to the Treasury data.

Some of the councils whose officials’ salaries cost taxpayers the most are at the centre of violent service delivery protests.

The country’s 12th costliest municipal team oversees Limpopo’s Greater Sekhukhune District Municipality, where ongoing protests over a lack of water in Ga-Phaahla exploded this week.

Nine people were arrested for public violence.

Previous protests in the area in recent months have seen attacks on ANC councillors and a former mayor.

Economist Loane Sharp said the data revealed that “there does not appear to be any coherent basis for either the salaries or number of officials in each municipal district”.

Sharp said it also seemed that officials’ “salaries are unconnected to a particular municipality’s service delivery intensity”.

Six of South Africa’s 30 most expensive management teams are – or have in the last two years – been considered financially distressed by the national Treasury.

They are OR Tambo district municipality in the Eastern Cape, Mangaung and Ngwathe in the Free State, Mogalakwena in Limpopo and the two Gauteng councils of Ekurhuleni and Mogale City.

The Treasury looks at year-on-year growth in debtors, overspending of operating budgets, underspending on capital budgets and stubborn negative cash balances when it classifies municipalities as being in financial distress.

Other costly municipal teams include:

» In fourth place, Steve Tshwete (based in Middelburg, Mpumalanga). Its 25 senior managers collectively earn R19 million and oversee a population of about 182 503 people;

» In ninth place, Moses Kotane Local Municipality (North West province) – its salary bill for top municipal officials is R12.1 million in a town with just under 230 000 residents;

It’s not just municipal managers who earn big money: in some areas, the Treasury data revealed, other management team members are taking home massive salaries.

» In Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati Local Municipality (Vryburg) in North West, two managers account for R4.1 million of the management team’s R8.6 million salary cost – R1.9 million for its deputy manager governance, and R2.1 million for its deputy manager procurement and infrastructure;

» One bonus in the council of George in the Western Cape accounts for R557 209, pushing this post’s total cost to R2.2 million.

The George council disputed the Treasury figures, saying four officials’ salaries had been reported under two posts, and this was not reflected in the published Treasury figures.

Several other municipalities contacted by City Press for comment on their generous salaries disputed the Treasury figures.

However, the Treasury said top council officials were required to verify that the information was correct when they submitted it to the Treasury.

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