Sutcliffe and DA in finance feud

2008-04-27 00:00

eThekwini Municipal manager Michael Sutcliffe and the Democratic Alliance are once again at each other’s throats, this time over the purchase of new vehicles for the mayor, the deputy mayor and the speaker.

The spat intensified last week when three brand new German sedans were finally delivered for the council’s political executive. Mayor Obed Mlaba got a BMW 750i and his deputy Logie Naidoo and speaker James Nxumalo each got new BMW 525is.

This has angered the DA within the council, and its leader, councillor John Steenhuisen, has called the purchase of the vehicles insensitive. He said the council preach about tightening belts, but go and do the opposite.

"I believe they are completely out of touch with reality. We have been using Toyota vehicles all along, which made sense as Toyota is one of the biggest employers of our people and is a local company," he told The Witness yesterday.

Mlaba and Naidoo had previously driven Lexus GS vehicles — which are a luxury brand of Toyota.

Firing back, Sutcliffe said Steenhuisen did not even establish the facts first from the municipality before making "unfortunate" claims in the media.

"Councillor Steenhuisen’s statements are most unfortunate and once again show that he is only interested in trying to bring the council into disrepute," he said over the weekend.

The eThekwini Municipality has a fleet of some 5 000 vehicles to achieve its service delivery obligations, he said.

"Included in this fleet are the mayoral vehicles. The City provides an annual budget for replacement of vehicles and in terms of the fleet replacement programme, the mayoral vehicles were identified for replacement in the current financial year because of their overall condition and distance travelled, which averages 200 000 km per vehicle," Sutcliffe said.

He said quotations were invited from manufacturers who could supply vehicles incorporating a high level of safety and with the status befitting the office of the Mayor of a major metropolitan municipality such as eThekwini Municipality.

"While I personally would have liked us to again purchase Toyota vehicles, I am bound to responsibly deal with supply chain management matters. In that regard, the most responsive tender received was from BMW and the cost of the three vehicles is R1,4 million."

Sutcliffe said this was an average of under R460 000 per car to replace cars, which collectively had an average of 200 000 km on the clock — is surely good business practice.

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