ANC leaders slam City

2018-01-18 15:11
Councillors want action on poor financial performance.

Councillors want action on poor financial performance. (File)

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In a dramatic about-turn on Wednesday, ANC councillors slammed Msunduzi officials, expressing fear that the City was bankrupt and demanding urgent intervention.

During the financial portfolio committee meeting to review the 2017/18 mid-year budget performance report, ANC councillors demanded all officials fix deficiencies within their units in order to improve the City’s financial status.

The meeting had a dramatic start with DA councillors walking out over the alleged flouting of council rules after they did not receive the reports scheduled for tabling until Wednesday morning.

However, ANC councillors continued with the meeting where they pulled no punches, grilling the senior managers of various units and the finance team led by the CFO, Nelisiwe Ngcobo, over the dire state of the City’s finances.

The meeting comes ahead of the tabling of the report from the auditor-general (AG), Kimi Makwetu, which is expected at next week’s council meeting.

Last week The Witness revealed that Msunduzi had regressed from a qualified to a disclaimer audit opinion and the AG highlighted non-compliance with key legislation, poor financial management and internal control deficiencies in the report released in November.

Reacting to this in Wednesday’s meeting, ANC councillors said the municipality was obviously bankrupt and urgent intervention was needed to turn things around. They also expressed dissatisfaction with the use of contractors and consultants to do the jobs of officials who were on suspension and therefore continued drawing salaries.

The ANC’s Nokuthula Msimang asked that a report be urgently compiled on the vacancy rate and the number of posts that had been advertised as well as contractors used because of vacant posts so that the committee and council knew exactly what they were dealing with, instead of being forced to make decisions based on speculation.

“Technically this municipality is insolvent. We got lost somewhere along the way but we simply cannot continue at this pace,” said the party’s Manilal Inderjit.

ANC councillors were unanimous in their call for those who dropped the ball to be held accountable and efficient systems for implementing projects be put in place so that grants were spent instead of being surrendered back to national Treasury at end of the financial term.

According the AG’s report, during the 2016/17 term the City underspent by R168,1 million on the public transportation infrastructure grant and almost R30 million on the neighbourhood development partnership grant.

In December, unspent grants, which included the municipal infrastructure, totalled R318,4 million.

Ngcobo said the municipality was experiencing numerous challenges, including the collection of revenue. Some councillors responded by saying that this was because there was no clear strategy in place as some people were not getting the services they were paying for while others were getting them for free when they should be billed.

Ngcobo, however, came prepared with an 11-page cost containment strategy that seemed to impress the councillors as many nodded in agreement during her presentation. She said the strategy would improve accountability and transparency across all the units because it required regular reporting on cost saving activities and results achieved.

The priority area, she said, was decision-making with regards to procurement, budgeting and not implementing projects timeously.

“This is the area that will not scream its costs aloud but is capable of eroding all the municipal savings,” she warned.

She said the appointments of consultants should also be reviewed, and where necessary consultants should transfer skills to internal staff. She said therefore the filling of vacant positions should be fast-tracked because non-appointments were costing the City and also limited capacity building.

“All functions, events and municipal annual awards should cease with immediate effect until the cash coverage of the municipality has improved to three months’ coverage,” she said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  msunduzi municipality

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