City’s billing bungles

2011-07-01 00:00

THE embattled Msunduzi Municipality is owed over R400 million in outstanding payments due in part to problems in its revenue collecting system.

It has also been found that more than 30 of its officials — including two deputy municipal managers — are facing disciplinary action.

These developments were given by Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC Nomusa Dube as some of the reasons that prompted her department to extend the provincial intervention programme at the municipality.

Four municipalities — Msunduzi, Indaka, Okhahlamba and uMhlabuyalingana — were put under administration last year by Cogta.

Yesterday the intervention was terminated in uMhlabuyalingana.

Citing reasons for retaining the intervention in Msunduzi, Dube said there is an urgent need to stabilise revenue collection and to collect over R400 million in outstanding debts.

She said the municipality’s top 20 debtors have been identified “and soon we are going to start pursuing them in order to ensure that their debts are paid up”. She did not name them.

She said that in order to ensure that the capital portion of the municipality’s 2011/2012 budget is adequate, funds will need to be secured from the Development Bank of Southern Africa.

“While acknowledging that the municipality has improved in many respects in line with the recovery plan, the cabinet, however, opted to extend the intervention in the Msunduzi Municipality owing to concerns with regard to the implementation and the achievement of all outcomes as per the turnaround strategy.”

Dube expressed concern that critical positions have not been filled, including those of municipal manager, chief financial officer, city engineer and internal auditor, which were advertised last month.

She said the current level of consumer debts must be reduced and that negotiations will take place with organised labour on the draft organisational structure.

There is also a need to review the strategic and operational risk profile of the municipality and to develop mitigating strategies at the beginning of the 2011/2012 financial year.

Certain officials have been delegated to monitor different accounts to ensure that consumers are paying because some of those who paid during “Operation Pitbull” have failed to keep up their payments.

Disciplinary inquiries involving 38 officials need to be finalised, including hearings for two deputy municipal managers. The charges range from fraud and corruption to allegations of maladministration and mismanagement, Dube said.

The implementation of the findings of the forensic investigation undertaken at the start of the intervention is still pending.

“There is a need to address capacity problems at a technical level and in terms of management depth and willingness to manage staff and resources, which is still a major challenge. We also still need to resolve urgent infrastructure challenges such as integrated infrastructure maintenance and a water loss programme, and to stamp out rampant electricity theft and address meter reading challenges,” Dube said.

The chairperson of the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) in Msunduzi, Lucky Zimu, welcomed the move to retain the administrator, which the union had called for.

“We also welcome the recent adjustments to the Msunduzi council leadership. We believe the new leadership has the potential to return the city to normality and to bring back hope and trust to the political administration of the council in terms of service delivery. Morale was down to its lowest among the workers and there is no doubt the … new leadership will improve our morale as well,” Zimu said.

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