City budget irks govt

2013-05-24 00:00

IT’S back to the drawing board for Msunduzi Municipality after national Treasury officials demanded drastic changes to the budget yesterday.

City bosses came in for a roasting and were ordered to overhaul the budget before it is passed by full council next week. A major complaint was that too little money had been set aside for repairs and maintenance.

Officials from Pretoria, who have been in the city to scrutinise the draft budget, popped in to the executive committee (Exco) meeting yesterday. They made a point of explaining why it was critical to increase the allocation of funds for repairs and maintenance of the city’s infrastructure.

Treasury official Bernard Mokgabodi said repairing potholes, street lights, keeping electricity and water running and the city running efficiently were essential for revenue generation.

“If you do these repairs, especially in revenue-generating wards, it would be better for the municipality. You would get more revenue because residents would want to pay.”

Mokgabodi did not mention the controversial 10% tariff increases being levied by Msunduzi.

However, he said the credibility of Msunduzi’s draft budget was of critical concern. Treasury felt that the budget was based on assumptions that were not borne out in reality.

For example, there were unrealistic expectations of how much debt would be recovered in the next financial year and how much grant money would be spent.

There was also criticism of the number of mistakes in the document, with tables in schedules not fully completed or incorrectly completed.

Democratic Alliance Exco member Mergan Chetty was beaming at the turn of events because the last council meeting had ended in a heated debate about the flawed draft budget. The DA wanted a range of amendments made and for the council to be given the opportunity to check the document before it went to Treasury.

Another critical area for Treasury was the lack of information about how much of the equitable share provided by national government goes to help the poor.

Mokgabodi said it was important for Treasury to see how much the municipality was giving away in its different rebates so that it could assess what was going towards poverty relief.

“Based on those figures, we would be able to see how much of the equitable share is spent on the poor and whether what we are giving you is enough,” he said.

Mokgabodi said the municipality definitely needed to do more to improve its debt collection and to increase its expenditure on capital projects.

Msunduzi is one of the 17 larger municipalities in the country that falls directly under Treasury when it comes to reporting on finances.

Mokgabodi yesterday gave the thumbs-up to municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi and chief financial officer Nelly Ngcobo for being transparent. He said this was the first time this had happened.

He said it was not all doom and gloom and the city had made significant progress. “ We see Msunduzi as the capital city of KZN. You should also operate on a metro mould, operate at the level of eThekwini and City of Johannesburg.”

There will be a special meeting on Monday when Exco members will review the revised draft budget with the changes made by Treasury.

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