Fraud blitz stalls fleet

2011-03-08 00:00

DELAYS in rubbish collection and other municipal services are being blamed on the fact that many of the Msunduzi Municipality’s vehicles are awaiting the go-ahead for repairs.

The municipality says it is a temporary problem while the system is tightened up to prevent fraud.

Senior managers say they are struggling to explain to irate ratepayers why grass has remained uncut for weeks in many parts of the city, rubbish lies uncollected, burst water pipes have been neglected and power cuts last longer than they should.

The managers, who spoke to The Witness on condition they are not named, said many trucks and other municipal vehicles are parked at municipal depots awaiting authorisation to be repaired or maintained.

They blame the hold-up on a delay in authorisation by the municipality’s intervention team.

According to the managers, authorisation takes from five weeks to three months.

“Some of the vehicles that are parked on council property are only missing batteries, tyres and licence discs,” said one of the managers.

Another manager said a truck in his department only needs a tyre to be back on the streets, but he has been waiting two weeks to get the go-ahead for the repair.

In the electricity department, said the managers, electricians sit idle, unable to go out to attend to power outages.

Yesterday managers were inundated with telephone calls from ratepayers. Some told The Witness they are avoiding calls and only responding to callers they can identify, simply because they do not know what to tell them.

Municipal spokesperson Brian Zuma said the delays will be temporary and are caused by several factors.

“Firstly, the Auditor-General in his report for 2009/2010 highlighted a serious discrepancy in the procurement of spares and of parts for the repair of [the] fleet.

“Illegal activities were discovered by the A-G, which include improper or fraudulent quotations and work being carried out without order numbers. That amounted to irregular expenditure.

“Procurement of goods is currently being centralised as a means to tighten up on internal controls.

“For example, there were cases where a vehicle would be taken in for new tyres, only to find that three months down the line the same vehicle is booked in for new tyres again,” said Zuma.

He said the new system is meant to ensure irregular expenditure is avoided by putting into place stringent internal controls.

“It is unfortunate that services got affected by this, but we would rather have a temporary inconvenience in order to have a long-term benefit,” said Zuma.

The Inkatha Freedom Party caucus leader in the municipality, Dolo Zondi, said his party has raised the matter before with the intervention team and that service delivery should not be affected by the intervention.

He said authorisation for fleet rep–airs is very slow and he blamed the intervention team for the delay.

Democratic Alliance councillor Rodger Ashe commented: “While the DA understands the need for caution with regard to authorisation after previous corruption, there is a need for more practical, user-friendly solutions because the present situation is impacting negatively on service delivery, especially with regards to refuse collection.”

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