Mettler’s monster bill

2011-02-01 00:00

OUTGOING Msunduzi Municipality caretaker Johann Mettler, whose tasks included curbing runaway overtime payments, has left the municipality an overtime bill of more than R130 000 which he has claimed for himself.

He also allegedly claimed a refund of thousands of rands for beverages, which sources allege are liquor.

Mettler’s contract ended yesterday. His replacement will be named by the KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), Nomusa Dube, at the city hall today.

The overtime bill, totalling R130 982,50, was paid into Mettler’s account on December 1 last year.

The Witness is in possession of documents with invoices that show the municipality settled the overtime bill for Mettler, with an additional R3 466 refunded for expenses.

Dube’s department appointed Mettler to rescue the municipality, and the expenses he incurred were to be claimed from the department.

According to sources who asked not to be named, the R3 466 was spent on “beverages”.

The department referred Mettler’s overtime payment to the South African Local Government Association (Salga) where Mettler is a permanent senior manager.

Cogta said in a statement dated November 30, “The department has entered into a secondment agreement with Salga and any payment of overtime will be made in respect of such agreement.

“It is noted that the secondment agreement does not make provision for the payment of overtime worked.”

The department also stated that all amounts claimed for subsistence allowances, which include any invoices for alcoholic beverages, “must be revised to exclude such items as the reimbursement of such items contravenes provincial treasury guidelines, municipal and departmental policy”.

Acting municipal manager Thokozani Maseko said the overtime claim includes a subsistence and travel allowance and billing for the additional time worked — as per the provisions of the SA Revenue Service — which was approved in principle by the department.

“The agreement document made provision for the payment of additional hours worked”, said Maseko.

He said the claim for R3 466 was not for alcohol, but for out-of-pocket claims for tollgate fees, parking and cellphone charges, and invoices and receipts were submitted in line with S&T policies.

“The municipality is in the process of recovering the expenditure for all the administrator’s cost from Cogta,” he said.

Cogta refused to cover the costs incurred by the municipality when it held its strategic planning sessions, saying that they were not held as a result of the intervention.

Maseko said that three sessions have been held since the intervention team took over — at Hella Hella in Richmond, Midmar and at council chambers — costing the council R125 000.

The municipality also incurred charges of R1 245 792 as a result of forensic investigations. A total of R938 264 is due to be paid by the council to Focus Project Management, R288 968 to KPMG and R18 559,20 to Justica Investigations.

When asked about the nature of the investigations and their outcomes, Maseko said: “Investigations are at a very fragile stage and cannot be discussed in the press. However, the outcome of the forensic investigations will be made public after they are tabled at a full council sitting.”

 

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The rumour mill at the city hall suggests that Mettler’s replacement will be Sbu Sithole, a former eThekwini deputy head. Sithole was also a municipal manager for Ugu District Municipality in the south coast.

“The incumbent Administrator, to be announced by [Dube], will be responsible for the implementation of service delivery in the provincial Capital, following the process of laying an adequate foundation which was led by the outgoing Mr Mettler,” said Cogta spokesperson, Lennox Mabaso.

The new appointee, said Mabaso, will ensure that the municipality is well administered to ensure delivery of services to the residents until a new council is ushered in after the local government elections

“As the provincial government, we have to ensure that the municipality is in a position to carry out its mandate of delivering services to the people. The new appointment will assist us in that regard,” said Dube.

Msunduzi Municipality has been at the centre of controversy in the recent years, with poor governance and administration, which led to a virtual collapse of service delivery last year, prompting the provincial government to take over in line with the provisions in the Constitution. There was also an overhaul of the political leadership as a result.

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