Still illegal - rates and electricity increases

2017-06-21 06:02

TWO weeks ago the Greytown Gazette published a report on the Umvoti budget for 2017/18 which had been bulldozed through a council meeting raising a huge number of illegalities in terms of the various Municipal Acts which apply.

In today’s issue, on page 11, a notice issued by Umvoti Municipality claiming to be “approval of final annual budget and tariff of charges 2017/18” is published.

But at the council meeting on 31 May councillors were apparently unaware that they were approving a “draft” budget, as they had already approved the budget at a meeting on 31 March.

From the Umvoti residents point of view probably the most important figures are the rates for the forthcoming year and the increase in electricity tariffs.

But these vitally important figures did not feature at all in the budget presented on the 31st - just a blank. Two negative strikes here - no tariffs were presented to council at the so-called “budget meeting” and where are the by-laws that have to be adopted to give effect to the implementation and enforcement of the tariff policy?

This leaves a huge query as to who “dreamt” up the tariffs which, together with the rates, were not seen, discussed or approved by council, as legally required in terms of the Municipal Systems Act.

In today’s advertisement the municipality is publishing increases in rates and electricity, which have not been seen, discussed or passed by council - another illegality in terms of the Municipal Systems Act.

Residential rates have been increased from 1.54 in the rand to 1.64 - an increase of 3.4%.

Electricity tariff increases, which have to be approved by Nersa (and apparently this has not been done) have on the domestic front been increased from 1.2796 to 127.96 (see the advertisement for further details).

For more than a month the Greytown Gazette has requested information from the municipality on its refuse bag policy, but to no avail. Maybe the cost put forward in the budget is the reason.

“Purchase of refuse bag - per pack of 25 - R458.58.” That works out R18 per one flimsy orange garbage bag. As this is obviously exorbitant the Greytown Gazette obtained a quotation this week from a large wholesale supplier of these bags with print - depending on thickness prices for

1 000 bags and they range from R1 102.73 (R1.102 per bag) to R1 764.43 (R1.76 per bag). If the figure published in the advertisement is correct someone is apparently making an enormous profit.

In terms of South Africa’s Constitution, the Municipal Systems Act, the Municipal Finance Management Act, and many more, there must be public participation and consultation. Here again Umvoti Municipality held only one roadshow, which, apart from posters plastered throughout the area announcing the mayor’s roadshow, notice was only given on the day in the Greytown Gazette.

This made it unlikely and even impossible for the ratepayers, who are mainly concentrated in Greytown, to attend the roadshow held in remote Ward 12 at an estimated cost of R800 000.

Whether ratepayers are now going to stand up and be counted is another query.

In the past month the municipality has spent an estimated R350 000 on transporting and accommodating councillors and staff at a four-day workshop at a four-star hotel in Umhlanga having cancelled the local venue in favour of this wasteful extravaganza.

On Youth Day it is estimated a further R500 000 was spent on the “last minute” mayor’s concert held in King Edward Park with imported artists, fancy marquees, food and a very loud music system.

Economically it’s a tough time for the majority of Umvoti residents - unemployment is high and many go to bed hungry. But apparently the council’s attitude is “We are all right” - so who cares?

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