City tightens its belt

2013-06-14 00:00

NO free lunches, slashed overtime and security, and more teleconferencing to reduce travel costs. These and other measures were agreed to by Msunduzi councillors when municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi proposed a cost-containment strategy to the executive committee yesterday.

Residents will have the opportunity to add their own cost-saving ideas to Nkosi’s proposals via suggestion boxes to be placed in council offices.

Councillors readily agreed to the measures, saying they never wanted to stare bankruptcy in the face again.

Eighteen months ago, Msunduzi Municipality emerged from being placed under administration after being on the brink of financial collapse.

Executive committee (Exco) members were upbeat to hear that the municipality had turned the corner. Nkosi said the council currently had a cash balance of R80 million a month, which meant that they could pay all their debts. However, to be fully out of the woods, the municipality needed to collect R250 million a month.

Nkosi hoped they would reach this goal in the next financial year. According to the municipal manager, the cost-containment strategy was aimed at curbing unnecessary expenditure to enhance the municipality’s cash balance.

He said that each municipal business unit would have a cost-saving committee that would look out for wastage.

Other measures that will be pursued include only using council facilities for municipal functions. Nkosi said they were also going to investigate whether it would be cheaper for the council to buy its own marquees, instead of hiring them for community meetings. He added that much money was spent on hiring plant and equipment in the past. “This came to over R1 million. We did a study and found that it would have been far more cost effective for us to buy more of our own equipment,” he said.

The strategy will also involve a review of the council’s security costs and how to use internal security staff more effectively.

There will be no more free lunches as catering costs will be scrutinised. All catering requests will have to be submitted to the deputy municipal managers for approval. The chief financial officer (CFO) in turn will submit for consideration a list of which meetings should be permitted to have catering services.

Staff will no longer be allowed to take municipal vehicles home, except where a detailed motivation for why they need to do so is submitted.

There would be energy-saving measures put in place in council buildings, and stationery costs would be slashed with electronic communication encouraged. Travel will be curtailed and managers encouraged to participate in teleconferencing.

The current controls on overtime will be further tightened, with staff being encouraged to take time off instead of being paid for working long hours.

All municipal functions are to be scrutinised to eliminate duplication of work and the productivity of staff will also come under review.

Councillor Jabu Ngubo congratulated Nkosi and his team on the strategy. “Now that we are out of administration, we might be tempted to forget where we came from and spend money without thinking,” she said.

Councillor Bill Lambert said he was sure that none of the councillors who had been through that painful process would ever forget where the council had come from.

Mayor Chris Ndlela said it was crucial that the municipality never returned to the bad old days.

Residents will also be able to participate in the cost-cutting exercise. Suggestion boxes will be placed in all major council offices for staff and the public to submit their ideas in the box. An e-mail address will also be created for staff and the public to send their ideas.

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