Tatane Project: Getting the books in order

2013-06-23 14:00

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This is part of the fifth instalment of the Tatane Project to monitor progress in service delivery. Next week, we will examine Joburg.

Villagers in Mawa Block 9 collect water from a hole they have dug in the bed of the dry Mmaba River. Pumps supplied by the Greater Tzaneen Municipality are broken and thieves have stolen some of the equipment to sell off as scrap metal.

In nearby Mountain View, residents get their water from a broken pipe hidden in the bushes surrounding their village, risking rape or snakebite in the process.

Providing a reliable water supply for the villages around Tzaneen is a major challenge for the municipality.

The council said it was working with the Mopani District Municipality and the water affairs department to sort out the provision of water, once and for all, in the semi-arid region. Once completed, the department’s multibillion-rand Nandoni Dam project will deal with water scarcity in and around Tzaneen and Giyani.

But, presently, the situation is dire. And the municipality, which has plans to transform the small town of Tzaneen into a city by 2030, has received a disclaimer from the Auditor-General (AG) for the 2011/2012 financial year.

The AG could not comment on the general financial health of the municipality for a number of reasons, including a lack of documents and information.

Now the AG’s disclaimer is raising fears in the council that if officials and politicians could barely manage a relatively small municipality, how will they manage a city with a budget running into billions?

In fact, the municipality has gone down a notch. Between 2007 and 2011, it received qualified audit opinions.

But the town’s manager, Elias Mankabidi, whom the council appointed in December, has put his head on a block that the municipality will achieve a clean audit at the end of the current financial year.

Earlier this month, Mankabidi spoke frankly about why the municipality received a disclaimer from the AG.

“Documents were misplaced, but they were later found. Those missing documents led to the disclaimer,” he said.

To remedy the situation, Mankabidi said he is establishing an archiving system to store and access documents.

Also to address the AG’s queries, Mankabidi says council took a decision to establish an audit steering committee led by the Mayor, Dikeledi Mmetle.

“We are serious about getting a clean audit come 2014. Everything has to be done by the book. Two weeks ago, we had a visit from the AG’s office. He met with the chief financial officer to set up checks and balances,” he said.

The council will also review all its policies to ensure they are in line with legislation governing local government, such as the Municipal Structures Act, the Municipal Finance Management Act and the Municipal Systems Act.

“We will look into our financial management and compliance issues,” said Mankabidi.

Tzaneen, which was founded in 1919, has a population of just under 500?000.

Greater Tzaneen has about 34 wards and 125 rural villages, and incorporates the towns of Nkowankowa, Lenyenye, Letsitele and Haenertsburg.

The municipality has launched an ambitious plan to transform the category B municipality into a city by 2030.

Although the Vision 2030 blueprint is still under development, Mankabidi says the municipality’s role is to create an enabling environment for development to take place.

The municipality’s integrated development plan has already identified the town’s aging electricity network as an impediment to development.

In the current financial year, officials have budgeted about R7?million to build a new substation.

Government departments, particularly Water Affairs and energy, will spend millions to ensure an uninterrupted supply of water and electricity.

“We have missed many investment opportunities due to the lack of capacity to supply more electricity. Companies invest elsewhere. This has to stop,” said Mankabidi.

The municipality hopes to host an investor conference next year to entice investors to Tzaneen.

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