Questions surround district budgeting

2008-07-06 00:00

SO, the full council of the uMgungundlovu District Municipality (UMDM) recently approved its budget and tariffs for the 2008/09 financial year.

The vote, we understand, went through smoothly and elicited a fair amount of self-congratulatory back-slapping in a departure from the usual bickering among the political parties.

While it is true that the published document is a synopsis of the expanded budget, we hate to be the party pooper, though, and wait on the powers that be to clarify a few concerns.

Starting with the income statement, we wonder how the R52 million Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) could be reflected as income. Given that the MIG is typically deployed for the construction of roads and the like, surely it should be reflected as a capital budget item.

Put differently, why is the R50 million item under stadium — for the much-maligned Harry Gwala Stadium upgrade — reflected as income, and then accounted for under the capital budget, but not the MIG?

Then there is the R38 million odd “other” item that we’d love to know more about, seeing that it is almost equal to two other items — water sales (R30 million) and sanitation (R10 million). Given that “other” accounts for more than 10% of the budget, surely it is incumbent on the UMDM to explain things better.

Moving to the operational budget of R225 750 164, we notice with great interest that R86 383 889 has been allocated for salaries. Disregarding the creative budgeting in the income statement for the moment, we wonder whatever happened to the stipulation that salaries are not supposed to exceed 30% of income.

Strip out some of the weird and wonderful interpretations, and we sit with a salary bill that is wildly incongruous with the rest of the budget, such as it is.

Add the R8 million-odd destined for councillor allowances — that apparently is not the same as salaries — and the picture becomes decidedly fuzzy.

But the item that really boggles our mind is the R28 million for the “provision of doubtful debt”. What on earth is doubtful debt, and as an operational income item nogal?

To cap it all, we see that the UMDM is projecting a R10 million surplus! Yes, a surplus, and that from an institution where staff have had to buy their own milk for their tea and, reportedly, their own stationery and toilet paper.

Then again, who are we to challenge the intellectual capital of this institution and its death-defying track record?

Great loss

THE death of Peter Barnard came as a shock, and more so as he fearlessly drew attention to the excesses at the

uMgungundlovu District Municipality.

In fact, he was one of the people to draw attention to the new UMDM budget and tribute must be paid to his tireless efforts to improve governance.

Long live Lutchman

LET it not be said that there aren’t conscientious municipal employees. One such man is Rakesh Lutchman in the Msunduzi Municipality’s water department who made good on a commitment to raise the matter of a faulty water meter. Throw in the fact that Lutchman has never been absent from a day’s work in 12 years, and one glimpses the extent of his willingness to walk the extra mile.

Fun and games

THE promotion of mental health will be the order of the day when a day of fun and games is staged at Voortrekker High School on July 10.

Proceedings get under way at 9 am and interested members of the public are welcome to show their support.

Something fishy

WE are still waiting for an explanation of an overpowering smell of fish permeating Cascades Centre last Monday.

Several callers phoned to complain about the smell that spoiled their visit to the centre. Repeated attempts to get to the bottom of the matter failed, leaving patrons and tenants in the dark as to the reason for the suspicious odour.

Walk on the wild side

KEEN to see just why people are so passionate about protecting the Wild Coast from rapacious mining activities? Then pencil in Sunday, July 20, for a walk from the Wild Coast Sun when a spring low tide will make it possible to experience the magnificence of this coastline.

The plan is to gather at the Wild Coast Sun at 7.30 am to walk to the petrified forest at the Mzamba River mouth, or to the Mlulwane Estuary, or to Mnyamene. Return distances are four, nine or 18 km, so bring along drinks and food and do the walk.

Last word

ONE of the secrets of life is to make stepping stones out of stumbling blocks. — Jack Penn.

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