Claims by councillors escalating

2013-09-19 00:00

COUNCILLORS expecting their travel costs to be covered for coming to work, led to a call yesterday in the KZN Legislature for greater clarity on what expenses they are allowed to claim.

This after the Umkhanyakude District Municipality told a joint meeting of finance and Cogta portfolio committee how it battled to control the escalation of subsistence and travel (S&T) claims by its councillors, especially those who serve in the executive council and expected to be full-time councillors.

KwaZulu-Natal parliamentarians have now asked the provincial Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) to come up with a policy that guides S&T claims of the province’s councillors.

The municipality’s chief finance officer Simon Dlamini said although their council had budgeted R5,2 million in councillors’ remuneration, they had to date spent R6,5 million due to the subsistence and travel claims for councillors.

He said a policy was now being developed to control councillor subsistence and travelling expenditure because it was escalating.

Mayor Jeffrey Vilane said the subsistence and travelling allowances were an “emotional” issue, with some councillors being defiant and coming to the municipality only for executive committee and council meetings.

Apparently, councillors who serve on executive committees expect to be paid for travelling to municipal offices, despite being appointed on full-time contracts.

An official from Cogta said the problem has come to their attention. “We have advised the municipality that you may not pay councillors for coming to work.”

Finance committee chairperson Belinda Scott said it was about time Cogta in KZN developed a policy that was fair to councillors and that it should not wait for national department. “It is incumbent upon provincial Cogta to develop this policy until such time as national comes up with something. The policy formulated by province should be a guideline.”

Earlier, the meeting heard that the municipality had regressed from a qualified audit opinion obtained in 2009/10 to an adverse one in 2010/11, and then a disclaimer in 2011/12. The latter means that all the required supporting documentation for expenditure, amongst other things, has not been provided to the auditor-general.

The report also said the municipality has budgeted an increase of 69% for the municipal manager from R814 000 in 2012/13 to R1,4 million in 2013/4, and the CFO’s remuneration was increased by 44,9% from R735 000 to R1,07 million.

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