Due process followed as the pie is cut

2013-06-21 00:00

IN responding to Julie Smith and councillor Mergan Chetty (The Witness, June 10), I acknowledge that Pacsa (The Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action) submitted a well-researched and well-presented document detailing a new tariff structure. The submission was made within the legal time frame as well.

The council has taken the contents of Pacsa’s suggestions very seriously and has resolved that we investigate the possibility of implementing a block-tariff system in the near future.

As per legislation, to change a tariff structure requires various legal processes to be followed and this requires more time and extensive consultation as the needs of citizens differ.

Since the 2013/14 budget is based on not what we want, but rather what we need, and 75% of our income is derived from our trading services, that is, buying and selling water and electricity; selling services such as sanitation; waste collection, the hiring of halls and sporting facilities, etc., we have to operate as a business. If we had to ring-fence each of these services without a subsidy from the rates and grant income, and to a certain extent, some cross subsidisation, each of these trading services would be bankrupt.

As for addressing the needs of the poor, the newly adopted Indigent Policy definitely goes further than the previous years. It is not enough, but it is what is affordable in the next financial year.

Our so-called diminishing pie is only so big and the demand for every piece is now highly contested. Our rates base and customer base are declining, and like trends in the rest of the country, and the world, for that matter, the social needs are increasing due to poverty, inequality and unemployment.

Our Integrated Development Plan for the next five years does provide solutions to reverse this trend.

We like Smith’s proposal, and working together, we could find a way of implementing some of the points, sooner, rather than later.

Responding to Chetty: the budget has been adopted by the councillors of all the other political parties. Let us not undermine their intelligence and their ability to play an oversight role, and be duped into thinking that only the DA has the intelligence to do this.

The meeting of February 21 was called to present to the public the municipality’s draft proposed tariffs for 2013/14, not for internal stakeholders to make individual proposals, but for external stakeholders to grasp our intentions and respond over the following two months.

It was agreed that all written submissions be sent to the municipal manager by no later than April 30.

We have a record of all the submissions made and considered. Internally, we had a workshop from May 2 to May 4, which involved all the political leaders, the senior managers, and the leadership from the unions.

The DA did not table a new tariff or budget proposal for the council to debate internally. Neither did the DA present an alternate budget at the full council workshop on May 8. These are factual and well-documented, and the interested public is invited to view the minutes of these workshops.

The DA chose to use only the meetings of full council, where the press was present, to table its proposals.

In terms of the law, any new proposal from internal stakeholders, if accepted by council, must then be open to public scrutiny before adoption. For this reason, to accept a new tariff proposal to council on the final day for the approval of the budget would have been irregular.

I therefore maintain that the DA did not show respect for the budget process and was grandstanding in order to obtain maximum political publicity.

All the budget and related policies are approved as drafts prior to the final budget vote.

The recommendation from the mayor to full council on May 31 to adopt the IDP, the budget and a number of policies relating to the budget, is clearly documented. The Indigent Policy is part of this package. These resolutions were also advertised in the press. Chetty seems not to be well-versed on issues of governance and the various regulatory processes that need to be complied with, or perhaps, he chooses to ignore them.

• Babu Baijoo is the speaker in the Msunduzi Municipality.

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