District passes austere budget

2008-06-02 00:00

An austere budget that drastically cuts down on the cost of entertainment, car hire and the use of consultants was unanimously passed by all parties in the uMgungundlovu District Council on Friday.

Yusuf Bhamjee, who was appointed mayor after council ousted previous incumbent Bongi Sithole by way of a vote of no confidence, cut the amount for mayoral programmes from its previous R11,5 million to R1 million.

In his budget speech, Bhamjee said the poor standing of the district municipality is common knowledge.

“We have, through the media and public opinion, received rightfully or wrongfully very adverse opinion as one of the worst institutions in the country and had become a point of reference for poor delivery, bad governance and financial misconduct. For two successive years we had audit disclaimers from the office of the auditor-general.”

Bhamjee added that the budget forms part of the municipality’s critical turnaround strategy and is geared to collecting amounts due from both local municipalities and consumers, rather than continuing to rely on grants. To this end, the district will be meeting the uMngeni Municipality about outstanding water payments.

The district’s total budgeted revenue for the year is R369,5 million — R225 million for operational costs and R134 million for capital projects.

A blight on the budget was that salaries consume 38,3%. The DA said that this is in contravention of national treasury guidelines that staff costs should not exceed 30% of the overall budget.

However, DA caucus leader Sizwe Mchunu acknowledged the efforts by the acting municipal manager and his team in reviewing staff structures.

Bhamjee said as part of the turnaround strategy, both the councillors and administrators have committed themselves to a strict disciplinary code and they are confident about restoring the dignity of the institution.

To show that they mean business, shortly after passing the budget, the council passed three critical policies, all of which had been workshopped in the past month.

These were the supply chain management policy, the performance management system and the fleet management policy.

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