uMngeni mayor must vacate R1,7?mln house

2009-10-29 00:00

UMNGENI Mayor Edward Dladla must vacate the R1,7-million house bought for him by the council by the end of November, and pay back an estimated R500 000 to the municipality for rates, electricity, water, telephone bills and maintenance.

This order came from the joint provincial standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) and finance committee in the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature yesterday.

The committees found that Dladl­a should not have been bought a house by the municipality. The house, which is in Hilton, was bought towards the end of 2006, despite protests from opposition parties in the council.

Although Dladla’s salary package included a housing allowance, the municipality went ahead and bought him a house and also paid the rates, electricity, water and telephone bills and maintenance costs.

Dladla now has to pay back the municipality all these bills.

John Steenhuisen, DA caucus leader in the legislature and a member of the committees, said Dladla was pocketing the taxable house allowanc­e, which was supposed to fall away when the municipality incurred costs for the house.

The mayor’s house was the centre of attention in the council in 2006. Allegations were made that the council paid R1,7 million instead of the market value of R1,25 million, and that it was bought from two contractors who do work for the municipality, and who are allegedly friends with both Dladla and municipal manager Dumisani Vilakazi.

The house was purchased for Dladla after he had to flee his Mpophomeni home following threats by a mob who stoned his house.

Finance committee chair Belinda Scott said the powers to determine which office bearers could be bought houses by government lie with the president, and such provisions have not been made for mayors. As such, the council’s purchase amounted to irregluar expenditure.

The municipality also came under fire over its nine senior managers, who still draw salaries ranging from R900 000 to R1,3 million a year.

A council sitting in July voted to cut Vilakazi’s salary from R1,3 million to R850 000 per annum. The salaries of his eight senior managers were also ordered cut by similar amounts. The managers’ total package amounts to just over R9 million a year — 14% of the municipality’s total salary package for over 400 staff members.

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