Personnel woes in infrastructure unit

2015-12-16 06:00
PHOTO: nqobile mtolo This burst fire hydrant was spotted recently along Bulwer Street by Longmarket Girls’ Primary School. The September infrastructure services unit report states there were 509 burst mains.

PHOTO: nqobile mtolo This burst fire hydrant was spotted recently along Bulwer Street by Longmarket Girls’ Primary School. The September infrastructure services unit report states there were 509 burst mains.

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LACK of personnel at Msunduzi Municipality’s infrastructure business unit is one of the underlying reasons why the city has not solved water losses, sewer mainline blockages and the general maintenance of the ageing water and electricity infrastructure.

This story follows last week Maritzburg Fever’s report that the city’s river system is being threatened due to the ageing infrastructure and the illegal storm water and sewer connections.

In May the municipality’s internal audit conducted an audit on the electricity business unit and some of the findings from the audit were that the maintenance for electricity infrastructure is not done, meter tampering is not attended to within defined times, there is no formal process for dealing with faulty lines and that there are no documented operating procedure for the electricity unit. The November Municipal Public Accounts Committee (Mpac) report highlights the research done by the municipality and Nersa. On 22 to 24 July Nersa conducted a compliance audit on Msunduzi Municipality’s electricity system as part of its operational measures.

Some of Nersa’s audit findings stated that “positions that were originally designed for engineers were filled by technicians” and that “there was a high vacancy rate against the electricity organisational structure”. The electricity’s distribution, primary system planning and technical support section is 48% understaffed with 16 vacant positions, the customer service section is 53% understaffed with 27 vacant positions, the construction and maintenance section is 10% understaffed with 30 vacant positions, the finance support unit has one vacant position, the human resources and administration support is 16% understaffed with seven vacant positions.

The lack of personnel compromises maintenance and operation of the municipality’s 69 000 customers within its geographical supply area of approximately 320km2.

The report from the municipality’s internal audit states that the customer base of the municipality has increased over the year, but the opposite could be said about the human resource component in the electricity business unit.

The report states that the maintenance of the low voltage overhead line has been neglected for more than 15 years and that the installation audit section, which deals with meter tampering, had human resources challenges as there is only one person working in this section, and that interns do not solve the problem as they need training, close supervision and need to be rotated for maximum skills exposure.

Using consultants has been sighted as a blessing and a curse for the municipality. A blessing in the sense that the municipality depends on consultants for skills and a curse because the municipal staff remains not empowered. This means that the municipality will forever depend on consultants on work that would have otherwise been done by internal staff had they provided the opportunity to work with consultants, the internal audit report reads.

The report also points out that the number of employees have been reducing at the unit over the years and that there were sections under infrastructure unit which are no longer operational. This includes the fully-fledged finance function which was run by a chief accountant, accountants and clerks, the drawings office, quality of supply section, overhead line maintenance crew and CDU maintenance crew section.

Moreover, the municipality’s 2014/ 2015 annual performance report states that in 2013/ 2014 financial year the municipality had unaccountable water losses of

220 60870 m3 and 232 45147 m3 for the 2014/2015 financial year. Moreover, the September infrastructure services unit report states there were 509 burst mains which had been recorded in the 2015/ 2016 financial year and that a projected 2190 bursts was expected for the remainder of the financial year.

Although the municipality’s water and sanitation unit is in the fourth year of a six-year non-revenue water reduction programme which aims to address water losses, it has been unsuccessful to curb water losses.

The internal audit report further points out that the infrastructure backlog is due to the slow maintenance of the municipal fleet which takes ages to be fixed. The municipality is also facing a brain drain with experienced employees leaving the municipality.

Msunduzi Municipality’s acting marketing and communications manager Nqobile Madonda said the whole municipality faces a high vacancy rate.

“The municipality in general has a high vacancy rate. Decreasing the high vacancy rate is a priority that needs to be addressed pending the finalisation of the staff allocation process and other processes that have been put in place to speedily reduce the vacancy rate,” said Madonda.

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