Call to probe Ugu finances

2011-08-05 00:00

THE Democratic Alliance has called on the provincial Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Department in KwaZulu Natal to suspend a former mayor of Ugu, Sithembiso Cele, who is now the municipal speaker, and accounting officer Luvuyo Mahlaka with immediate effect.

This comes after Cogta tabled a report at a meeting last Friday about the municipality’s financial sustainability, which shows its current liabilities exceed its assets.

DA KZN co-operative governance spokesperson George Mari, who was present at the meeting in Mayville, said: “Cogta MEC Nomusa Dube and the MEC for finance are auditing Ugu’s financials and we want them to release that report and for any malpractices to be dealt with in earnest.”

Mari said the DA is calling for a full forensic audit of Ugu.

All attempts to contact Cogta’s spokesperson, Lennox Mabaso, for comment were futile.

The 2009/2010 annual reports from the municipality reflect unauthorised expenditure amounting to R 152,493 million and irregular expenditure incurred — as the proper tender processes had not been followed — of R37,888 million. Unspent conditional grants of R35,8 million which were not cashed back as at June 30, 2010, were also reflected.

In attempting to explain these figures, Ugu’s acting senior manager for mayoralty and communications, Lindani Mzotho, told The Witness in response to queries: “An authorised expenditure reflected in the 2009/2010 annual report relates primarily to grant expenditure which was received and not included in the budget.

“The council meeting held on August 25, 2010, condoned such expenditure. A reported irregular expenditure was as a result of a deviation, which is provided for in the legislation, that took place due to circumstances which were inevitable at that stage.

“With regard to unspent grants, the information has been disclosed in the annual financial statement and the municipality adopted a going concern plan to deal with these challenges.”

Among the figures in question are R290 172 for airfares, accommodation and shuttle services for councillors in the month of October 2010 alone.

The core function of Ugu is to provide water and sanitation services to the district.

However, it continues to spend R3,6 million for operating expenses of the Ugu fresh produce market, which records a revenue of R476 266.

This reflects a loss of R344 000 a month.

Mzotho responded: “The municipality has noted that there are serious challenges in terms of income against the expenditure at the market; hence an assessment is being conducted to address the matter.

“Upon receipt of a final report the municipality will take a decision in the month or two regarding the future of the market.”

Also during former mayor Cele’s administration, two luxury Audi Q7 SUVs were purchased as his official cars.

However, when the new mayor, Ntomb’fikile Gumede, was sworn in at the end of May neither of these vehicles was made use of and she travelled in a hired executive car.

Mzotho said about the then mayor’s car purchases: “The former fayor needed a reliable vehicle since Ugu district is more than 5 800 square kilometres, of which 80% is rural and he needed to be in all parts of the district.

“The first vehicle was purchased in 2007 and it was replaced after four years in terms of the policy.

“We couldn’t put the mayor’s life in danger as the first vehicle was giving us a lot of problems in terms of repairs.

“The municipality is currently in the process of disposing [of]the vehicle.”

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