Another Msunduzi body in crisis

2019-08-15 14:01
City Hallâ??s Clock tower keeps ticking. The Msunduzi municipality has managed to keep ahead of the problem the pigeons keep dropping. Photo. Jonathan Burton8BIM

City Hallâ??s Clock tower keeps ticking. The Msunduzi municipality has managed to keep ahead of the problem the pigeons keep dropping. Photo. Jonathan Burton8BIM (file)

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City council’s watchdog, the municipal public accounts committee (Mpac), is struggling to make its bite felt as its meetings collapse regularly and recommendations are not being implemented.

While the absenteeism of councillors who are members has marred the functioning of the committee since last year, its other challenge stems from the resignation of three DA councillors who defected to the ANC earlier this year.

The by-elections to fill their positions were held last week and the new councillors are yet to join council.

The other member, Nkosinathi “TK” Gambu, was released from police custody last week where he was held on murder charges. His matter — including when he should return to work — is apparently still in the hands of the ANC provincial leadership.

Only five councillors, including the chairperson, Mary Schalkwyk, arrived for yesterday’s meeting. The 13-member committee needs eight members to be quorate.

Mpac is the powerful finance watchdog committee responsible for holding councillors and senior public officials accountable on how they spend the City’s funds. It can even make recommendations to council to discipline officials and rescind council’s decisions if the committee deems them to be irregular or not in the best interests of the municipality and its citizens.

In previous years, Mpac has hit back hard at City officials for the lack of enforcement of by-laws, under-expenditure on conditional grants and their failure to meet the target for the registration of indigents.

However, the committee’s recommendations — most of which could have averted the placing of the City under administration and its negative audit opinions — have been largely ignored.

Yesterday senior officials, including general managers, availed themselves for the meeting which was to discuss matters such as the City’s controversial call centre and the management of the municipal fleet as it has been subject to abuse.

The ACDP’s Rienus Niemand called for Schalkwyk to take the necessary disciplinary action against those who did not attend the meeting and had not provided reasons.

He also asked for Mpac to look into making a recommendation to council to reduce the committee’s quorum to five until the councillors who resigned had been replaced.

Speaking to The Witness afterwards, Schalkwyk denied that Mpac had been reduced to a toothless dog and was on the brink of dysfunctionality.

“I’m disappointed that we didn’t sit today because we had all the officials that needed to answer what was on the agenda; they were here to do so.”

She said councillors were notified about the meeting but did not attend.

“We’re an oversight committee. Whatever recommendations that were given from the auditor-general and the audit committee, it all came off Mpac.

“Playing our oversight [role] is the most important thing here.

“We are here to make sure that people get service delivery and that money is being spent in the right way and on what it was meant to be spent on.”

Mpac manager Hlalani Zondi said for the previous three years the committee was precise on the issues faced by the municipality such as underspending on grants, synergy amongst departments, by-law enforcement poor planning for projects and consequence management.

He said there has been consistency in the oversight reports of the committee even though some its recommendations had not been implemented to its satisfaction.

“There have been niggling issues but the committee has not been dysfunctional. We are hoping that this financial year we will come to a level of stability."

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