Axing of managers in worst municipalities: Is David Mabuza buying time?

2014-02-28 09:52

The future of five managers heading Mpumalanga’s worst-performing municipalities hangs in the balance as Premier David Mabuza makes up his mind on whether to axe them.

Mabuza was expected to have fired the managers of Emalahleni, Msukaligwa (Ermelo), Bushbuckridge, Thaba Chweu (Lydenburg) and Mkhondo (Piet Retief) three weeks ago after their municipalities received disclaimers from the Auditor-General in the 2013/14 financial year.

He forced all 23 municipal managers to sign pledges last year that they would voluntarily resign if they got disclaimers.

But the premier has not acted since he summoned the managers and their mayors on February 11 to put forward mitigating circumstances.

Mabuza’s spokesperson, Zibonele Mncwango, said a support task team – comprising of officials from the departments of cooperative governance, treasury and the premier’s office – recommended that these managers leave after they had failed to turn things around even though the team had intervened to assist them.

“The team reported to the provincial government lekgotla (last month) that the managers’ services should be terminated. Some have admitted that they were failing and the premier is frustrated because he has given them support but they were still unable to improve their administrations,” Mncwango said.

Mabuza, said Mncwango, had met the mayors of these municipalities and would decide what to do.

ANC insiders say Mabuza may not take any drastic action until after the general elections this year, because most of the managers were ANC members and their dismissal might cause problems for the party’s campaigns.

Although managers are ANC deployees, Mncwango said Mabuza had all the powers to fire them in his capacity as a premier.

“The Auditor-General has been clear that the buck stops with the premier as leader of government. So, this is not a matter for the ANC’s deployment committee,” he said.

Again, only the Ehlanzeni and Steve Tshwete municipalities got clean audits in the province. Mbombela, Gert Sibande and Nkangala received unqualified audit opinions with findings.

Nkomazi and Lekwa improved from receiving disclaimers to qualified audit reports, while the rest got qualified reports.

The state of affairs in municipalities is also exacerbated by the fact that most managers, chief finance officers (CFOs) and supply chain staff do not have the skills and competencies to perform their jobs.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan gave them a five-year deadline in 2007 to upgrade their skills by January 2013, but most in the country had not done so.

In Mpumalanga, it is only Mbombela manager Xolani Mzobe who has the qualifications required by Treasury. Only two CFOs – from Lekwa and Albert Luthuli – were qualified, but they have since left the province.

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