‘City budget must be studied’

2020-01-22 14:45

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City administrator Sibusiso Sithole is determined to have the last word on Msunduzi’s mid-term adjustment budget, which he wants “scrutinised thoroughly” before adoption by council.

On Tuesday a joint meeting between the executive and financial services committees became tense when the ANC caucus chose to ignore Sithole’s advice on the 2019/20 budget adjustment, which contained projections for the City’s revenue and expenditure for the second half of the financial year ending in June.

Acting chief financial officer Dudu Ndlovu-Gambu said the operating expenditure would be reduced by R77 million as there had already been another adjustment down in November by R200 million.

The approved roll-overs on grants not spent in the previous year would also see an increase of the capital budget by R173 million and the provincial Department of Human Settlements has given Msunduzi another R26 million for housing projects. “The municipality’s projected operating surplus has increased from R277 million in the original budget [approved in June] to R381 million,” said Ndlovu-Gambu.

Sithole said he wanted the City to delay council’s approval of the adjustment budget until February. This, he said, would allow National Treasury and Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) an opportunity to scrutinise the figures to ensure that the budget was balanced.

He used property rates as an example, saying the municipality needed to assess the effect of the ratepayers’ objections on the general valuation roll. Msunduzi finalised the objections more than four months after adopting the budget in June. “We [also] can’t be talking about tools of trade yet we are not even budgeting for them as the municipality.”

He said Msunduzi was spending a lot of its operating expenditure on hiring trucks and plant equipment.

“The budget adjustment must not just be a paper part but we must fully understand even the projects that we are forgoing, that we are cutting and how useful those are in the scheme of things.”

The DA and IFP were in favour of Sithole’s decision to get treasury and Cogta involved as they felt that it would assist the municipality in attaining the financial stability as that had been a cause of concern for more than a year.

ANC’s Ntuthuko Ntshangase was concerned that delaying the adoption of the adjustment could result in Msunduzi not complying with the local government regulations. He said he thought the issues that Sithole was raising would have been addressed already as it was the norm for the report to come before council every January.

However, Sithole said compliance was not an issue with adjustments. He was adamant that the figures still need to be interrogated to satisfy both council and his intervention team that the decisions made were in the best interest of Msunduzi and that service delivery was not compromised.

“If we don’t do that, we will also be failing in our responsibility as ministerial representatives,” he said of his team.

When the ANC tried to debate the issue further, Sithole told them that he did “not want to get into spats with councillors. My responsibility is to make sure that I rectify the decisions of council”.

The ANC eventually decide to ignore his advice and moved to recommend that council adopts the adjustment at its next meeting, which is scheduled for tomorrow.

In a parting shot Sithole said “this is mere recommendation of this committee to full council and once the matter is looked at full council level I will then obviously exercise my judgment in terms of the responsibilities that are given to me in terms of how we proceed with the adjustments”.


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