‘Doctored’ report angers DA

2011-10-07 00:00

DEMOCRATIC Alliance council members are outraged at an alleged attempt by the uMngeni Municipality management to edit an allegedly unfavourable assessment report that was due to be presented to a council meeting yesterday.

The Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Department was supposed to present its assessment findings on the municipality’s performance in the past year.

Cogta reports are usually a thorough overview of the municipality’s state of affairs, especially a comment on their financial health.

Many municipalities are rapped over the knuckles by Cogta for overspending and financial mismanagement. But instead of appearing before the full council as suggested on the agenda yesterday, there was no sign of the Cogta members.

DA councillor Pam Passmoor saw them in the municipal offices only minutes before the council meeting.

The speaker of the council announced that the Cogta report would not be presented to the council as planned, but would instead be presented next week.

Passmoor then asked to know the reason that the report was not available for scrutiny by the council members.

Acting municipal manager Sandile Buthelezi replied that there are certain aspects of the Cogta report where “we did not see eye to eye”.

DA ward councillor for Nottingham Road Moira Gruenenberg was furious and left the council meeting. Passmoor, the Hilton councillor, also left the meeting early in protest. They believe the uMngeni management is not handling the council affairs in a transparent manner.

The Witness tried to contact Cogta for an explanation, but department employee Jenny Moodley, who came to uMngeni Municipality to present the report, refused to confirm or deny what had happened and referred the newspaper to Cogta spokesperson Lennox Mabaso.

Mabaso told The Witness that MEC Nomusa Dube is committed to having municipalities in the province functioning well and being an example to other provinces.

“We can assure all and sundry that no municipality can influence us in terms of presenting the facts, cold or hot as they are … We have every level of confidence in our officials to present the facts as they are …” said Mabaso.

uMngeni, he said, will not be treated any differently from other municipalities.

The report will be presented on Tuesday at an executive committee meeting, and it will never be known what, if any, undesirable elements of the report will have been edited to suit the uMngeni management.

A source in the finance department said the municipality is deeply in debt to the tune of over R40 million, most which is due to the non-payment of electricity and water accounts and the subsidisation of poor households with free utilities.

An estimated 30% of ratepayers subsidise the bills of the 70% of indigent households. The council’s finances are allegedly so bad that petty cash has been scrapped and copy paper has to be requested. Staffers are not served free tea or coffee and do not get newspapers.

• trish.beaver@witness.co.za

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