Councillors ‘given illegal loans’

2010-05-20 00:00

THE latest revelation about the rot that has led the embattled Msunduzi Municipality to the brink of bankruptcy is that the council has lent money illegally to councillors and officials.

This revelation was made by Msunduzi administrator Johann Mettler at the Winston Churchill Theatre yesterday during a visit from the national parliamentary ad hoc committee on service delivery oversight.

The parliamentary committee made a stop in Pietermaritzburg on its national tour of municipalities so that members can get a picture of the service delivery challenges faced by local government.

After the visits, the committee will submit a report to the National Assembly on each of the municipalities they visited for notings and recommendations.

Msunduzi residents were given the opportunity to raise concerns with the committee about service delivery and the municipality.

Mettler said the provincial task team has found that there is corruption in the municipality.

An example was loans given to councillors and officials, which Mettler said is illegal. The task team is following this up, and Mayor Mike Tarr is also aware of the loans.

The task team has also started investigating the lack of monitoring by the municipality’s procurement division of projects awarded by tender to contractors, said Mettler.

He said contracts being investigated include the meter-reading system deal. The municipality allegedly awarded the contract, worth R240 million, without proper tender processes.

Another contract being probed, said Mettler, is the debt collection contract. He said the municipality paid a lot of money to the debt collection contractors, but did not hand over some debtors.

“The sense we get is that there were instructions not to hand over some debtors and there were gains for not handing over some of the debtors,” said Mettler.

He stated that one of the reasons why a number of contractors performed poorly is that they were managed by the municipality’s procurement division.

“This was fertile [ground] for breeding corruption. I still shudder that such a situation was allowed.”

Mettler, with acting deputy municipality managers (DMMs) of various divisions, presented reports on the successes and challenges faced when delivering services.

He told the committee the intervention to try to sort out a financial dating back two years is in only its second month.

He said there have been successes in debt collection, but added that the municipality is owed more than R80 million by the provincial government in rates, more than R60 million by business and about R240 million by residents.

Acting municipal manager Thokozani Maseko said challenges faced in the electricity department include a lack of resources, skilled labour and maintenance and an upgrading of the infrastructure.

Acting DMM for human resources Kas Thaver said vacant posts are affecting the municipality.

He said the vacancy rate is at about 46%.

Acting DMM for community services Dr Nomasonto Nkosi said that one of the challenges faced by her division is the lack of burial space in the city. She told the committee there is virtually only a month’s burial space left in the city.

The acting DMM for economic development, Skhumbuzo Mpanza, painted a picture of a well functioning Oribi airport. His report was criticised by committee chairperson Solomon Tsenoli for being vague and lacking appropriate information.

As for debt collection, Tsenoli said the municipality needs to adopt a tougher approach and kick businesses and government that owe them rates in the “butt”.

RESIDENTS from various wards in the Msunduzi Municipality were given an opportunity to air their grievances to the parliamentary committee about service delivery.

Some of the service delivery concerns they raised were: the lack of electricity and water in some areas, water cuts, lack of street lights, collapsing houses, a lack of housing, stalling of projects in communities, collapsing toilets, high electricity bills, and converting from the electricity meter system to the prepaid card system.

The thorny issue of neglected refuse collection was also raised.

Managers of various national departments, who accompanied the committee promised to liaise with the municipality to address some of the issues raised.

THE suspended deputy municipal managers (DMMs) have been taking home salaries aligned to those of senior managers of metro municipalities.

This was disclosed by Msunduzi administrator Johann Mettler yesterday.

Mettler said the municipality had been on the cusp of becoming a metro council, but due to certain administrative failures that fell through.

The Witness was told the previous council raised the DMMs’ salaries to about R577 000 a year. Rob Haswell’s salary rose to just over R1,1 million.

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