Abaqulusi crisis: MEC steps in

2013-03-28 00:00

THE Abaqulusi (Vryheid) Municipality has been placed under administration — as a result of alleged misconduct by councillors and officials and of money squandered — for the second time in eight years.

Co-operative Governance MEC Nomusa Dube said yesterday that municipal officers had spent more than R40 million irregularly and that government-funded projects had stalled.

She accused local councillors and municipal officials of placing their political egos before the needs of the community.

“You have demonstrated a heartlessness in the manner in which you conducted business here in Abaqulusi,” she said.

The municipality was first placed under administration in 2005. It recovered and received an unqualified audit by 2010. However, last year the Auditor-General gave the municipality a disclaimer, because the financial records were in such a bad state that he could not form an opinion.

The latest debacle is the result of friction between ANC and National Freedom Party members who govern the municipality in an uneasy coalition. The friction has resulted in council meetings being disrupted regularly.

Dube said her department had repeatedly offered to help the municipality, but had been ignored. She said party politics had prevented the election of a municipal manager. When a candidate was finally selected, it was revealed that he had misrepresented his qualifications. Despite this, some councillors were determined to appoint him.

The MEC said the municipality was no longer functioning and that she was aware of complaints by the public, including that building plans and development applications had not been processed, allegedly because no staff were prepared to sign them off.

Her department’s intervention was intended to prevent the total collapse of the municipality, which would now be run by T.L. Manda, who was appointed the administrator, she said.

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