City running on empty

2018-06-12 18:52
Services section has over 1 000 vacant posts.

Services section has over 1 000 vacant posts. (File)

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The Msunduzi department tasked with arguably the biggest job in terms of service delivery has less than half the staff it should.

The City’s infrastructure services business unit is sitting with a staggeringly high vacancy rate of more than 1 000 posts not filled; the majority of these are not even budgeted for.

In his recent report on the use of contracted services and the status quo on staffing, acting general manager for infrastructure services Sechaba Kunene revealed that the City will need at least R255,8 million to fill all the positions.

The unit has 2 072 approved posts according to the municipality’s organogram. The departments hardest hit by the non-filling of posts include electricity with 501 vacant posts, roads and transportation with 265, and water and sanitation with 288 vacancies.

“The process of filling 48 priority posts and a number of essential (54) budgeted vacant posts is currently in progress but even after all current priority posts are filled and if all budgeted posts were filled, the vacancy rates would still be unacceptably high at 49,6%,” said the report.

The other vacancies are in the project management office, mechanical workshops and water services authority.

The Witness has been reporting extensively about the staff shortages in some of the City’s critical departments such as electricity. This has also led to the municipality’s massive monthly overtime bill with some employees claiming for more than 200 hours in overtime per month.

“A bloated structure with a high vacancy rate lends itself to excessive acting appointments which is evident in the high number of acting appointments currently in place,” said Kunene.

The business unit currently has 100 employees acting in higher positions, including Kunene, which makes up more than 10% of the unit’s total staff.

The head of the unit, Sabatha Nomnganga, has been on suspension since last June on allegations of financial misconduct, which he has denied.

Kunene anticipates that the issue of acting in higher positions will soon be addressed though, as the strategic management committee recently passed a resolution that acting appointments may only be approved where the recommended employee meets the required qualification and experience for the position.

“It is no secret that there are areas where staff are not productive, perhaps because work is being outsourced, and other areas where staff are extremely stretched and there is a need to refine and trim the structure to current operational needs,” said Kunene.

The business unit, which is responsible for the implementation of infrastructure projects including maintenance and upgrades, has spent more than R130 million on outsourcing services this financial year. The biggest share — R80,4 million — went to the contractors who were appointed on the municipal infrastructure grant projects. These include construction companies, plant hire and consultants.

Eleven contractors were appointed to carry out disconnections and reconnections, which cost the City R2,7 million of the R19,3 million spent on electricity service providers.

Msunduzi has projected an increase in its expenditure on contracted services from R537 million this financial year to R605,8 million in 2018/2019. This includes the use of consultants and service providers doing maintenance, as well as security companies.

Last month the financial services committee, however, called for a curb in the expenditure on contracted services.

They said resources must be invested in capacitating municipal officials to handle some of the tasks that are currently being outsourced.

There was also a concern that the City is spending significant amounts of money on plant and equipment hire and should consider purchasing some since there are numerous infrastructure projects in the pipeline.

Process unitVacant postsVacancy rateValue of
vacant posts
Budgeted vacant postsPriority posts 2017/2018
Electricity 50168,4%R133,9 million2214
Roads and Transportation26545,3%58,2 million2014
Water and Sanitation28846%R61,8 million1211
Project management office2184%R9,2 million05

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  msunduzi municipality

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