Opposition parties cry foul as eThekwini 'merges' finance committee and Exco

2016-09-14 17:50
Durban. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Durban. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Durban - The eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality has approved the "merger" of the finance and procurement committee with the executive committee (Exco), despite objections from opposition parties, it said in a statement.

According to municipal spokesperson Tozi Mthethwa, the decision would "ensure the effective use of public funds and enhance accountability".

"The move, despite fierce objection from some members of the opposition parties, will in fact strengthen Mayor Zandile Gumede's political oversight and guidance over the fiscal, as well as financial affairs of the municipality," Mthethwa said.

Gumede explained her role as mayor in relation to the Municipal Finance Management Act.

"As mayor of eThekwini, I am charged with the responsibility of monitoring and, to the extent provided by the Municipal Finance Management Act, overseeing the exercise of responsibilities assigned to the accounting officer and chief financial officer. These will be my tasks on a daily basis."

According to Mthethwa, the Municipal Finance Management Act allowed Gumede to "take all reasonable steps to ensure that the municipality performs its constitutional and statutory functions" within the limits of the municipality's approved budget.

Fewer eyes on officials

"Gumede's role also includes providing political guidance over the budget process and the priorities that must guide the preparation of a budget."

Democratic Alliance Exco member and provincial leader Zwakele Mncwango said the change was not a merger, but a removal of a sub-committee.  

"We have five sub-committees, including finance and procurement. There were lots of people watching this committee. All parties were previously represented. Now that it only exists in Exco, it is just the ANC, DA and IFP that will have a say."

Mncwango said he was concerned because there would be fewer officials who would have to account to politicians.

"This is a R41.6bn budget. The mayor says she wants more accountability, but the truth is we will have less access to the officials. At least, during finance meetings, we could directly ask them questions. Now we also have fewer people looking at this committee. It does not make sense."

He added that the DA would continue to watch over finances, despite the motion passing.

Scheduling issues

"We will not stop watching what is going on here. We will keep as close an eye as possible on everything that is happening. We have one of our members that was part of the finance procurement committee in Exco. We will keep a keen eye out."

Speaking to News24, Inkatha Freedom Party Exco member Mdu Nkosi said his party was worried by the move. He said scheduling issues could mean finance and procurement would be marginalised. The IFP voted against the motion in council.

"Imagine if a meeting is scheduled for finance and we did not sit for that meeting. Our job is to play an oversight role. How do you play an oversight if you do not have time? We have a busy schedule as public officials. We need to be able to give this portfolio the right attention."

Nkosi added that the municipality still had many financial challenges. He said the move would mean fewer eyes on finances.

"We have just got a clean audit and we want to keep it that way. We do not think this will help those efforts. Smaller parties that monitored that committee are no longer part of the process. They helped bring things to light as well."

Read more on:    da  |  ifp  |  durban  |  politics

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