Stripped of power

2010-03-12 00:00

THE Msunduzi Municipality has been stripped of decision-making powers and the day-to-day running of municipal affairs will be taken over by an administrator from the KwaZulu-Natal Co-operative Governance Department, as of tomorrow.

This was announced by MEC Nomusa Dube at a press briefing in Durban yesterday. She later informed Msunduzi councillors of the decision at the city hall.

Dube said this radical decision by the provincial cabinet stems from the untenable situation that has seriously compromised good governance and service delivery in the municipality, which she said has plunged into turmoil.

The municipality has been placed under administration as provided for by Section 139 (1)(b) of the Constitution.

“This decision means that with immediate effect the executive functions and powers allocated to the mayor … as well as the responsibilities assigned to the municipal manager have been assumed by the Provincial Executive Council — through myself as the MEC …” said Dube.

She said the decision comes in the wake of worrying reports about the financial health of the municipality, which has deteriorated to the point where service delivery is on the verge of collapse.

“The [municipality] has condoned irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure as is evident from the auditor-general’s report on the 2008/2009 financial year. The Exco has dismally failed to exercise an oversight role over the municipality’s administration, which has placed the municipality in a complete state of turmoil. Despite numerous attempts by the provincial Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs to support the municipality, it has continuously lurched from one disaster to another,” said Dube.

The MEC slammed notions that Exco and the full council did not know that the municipality was headed for a financial crisis because of claims that management denied that the finances were strained. “Surely someone should have seen that the municipality was headed for a crisis, or someone should have alerted somebody or somebody did not do something …” said Dube.

The MEC said that those responsible for the current state of finances will be dealt with.

“They will face the full might of the law,” said Dube.

She said that recently, the provincial government deployed experts to assist in improving the council’s finances.

These experts have reported a lack of co-operation from certain senior managers, who have issued instructions to staff not to provide urgently required information.

“The inability of [Exco] to exercise oversight over staff members has resulted in the province instituting these tougher actions. Today we are, therefore, announcing that officially Msunduzi Municipality is placed under administration … The administrator has been assigned the responsibility to turn around the fortunes of this municipality with regard to restoring basic service delivery, improving financial systems, enhancing revenue collection, improving institutional capacity and performance, including the implementation of the findings and recommendations of the section 106 [forensic] reports,” said Dube.

Two forensic investigations into the municipality were instituted by former Local Government MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu and by the now defunct Scorpions. The findings of the investigations were never released and the recommendations have not yet been implemented.

Dube said the administrator will be announced today.

The administrator will be subjected to performance contracts aligned with the recovery plan for the municipality, said Dube. He will be assisted by the three-person task team of financial experts appointed earlier to support the municipality.

These interventions must be viewed as a means to turn around the woes of the municipality and restore the people’s confidence in it, she said.

“As the capital city of the pro­vince, the citizens of the province and the community of Msunduzi, in particular, expect this municipality to be exemplary in all its operations. So far, this has not been the case. This intervention is meant to restore Msunduzi to its glory days as the seat of government in KZN,” said Dube.

On the issue of municipal manager Rob Haswell’s sick leave, Dube said if he is ill he cannot be denied sick leave.

When asked whether she is aware of the letter sent by Exco last March to Mabuyakhulu complaining about Haswell’s alleged repeated misconduct, Dube said she was not aware of the letter and will look into it.

The MEC said she met with the leadership of the Msunduzi Municipa­lity earlier to inform them of the decision.

“I must say that I was impressed to learn that the leadership is recognising the shortcomings and is very candid about the challenges. They have accepted the interventions in good spirit and committed themselves to providing full support to the administrator in turning around the fortunes of this municipality,” she said.

Dube cautioned that, should there be any refusal to co-operate or to take appropriate decisions, she will be left with no other option but to revert to the cabinet and request that the interventions be changed to section 139(1) (c), which means that the council will be dissolved.

“It is my fervent hope that we will not have to arrive at this point, that rationality will prevail and that the interests of our people will be paramount in the decisions that are taken,” she said.

Section 139(1)(b) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa,1996 (Act No.108 of 1996) as amended, simply means that an administrator takes over the running of the municipality. Any managerial and financial decision is taken by the administrator. In such an intervention, the municipality’s executive committee is stripped of all decision-making powers and, as such, every decision made in the municipality has to be approved by the MEC of Local Government. A municipal expert loosely likened the intervention to the municipality being reduced to a baby that has to be “spoon fed and have its nappies changed”.

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