Msunduzi: ‘there is hope’

2020-05-19 14:15
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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There’s a glimmer of light at the end of Msunduzi’s tunnel even though the lockdown has derailed some of the plans to turn the city around.

Considerable progress has been made in the provincial government’s intervention in Msunduzi, which was placed under administration a year ago.

This sentiment was shared by both Mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla and KZN Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs’ (Cogta) Senzelwe Mzila when The Witness asked about the status of the intervention on Monday. “It’s a work in progress but we are definitely moving in the right direction,” said Thebolla.

He said political stability has been achieved as council and committee meetings are now sitting on a regular basis and oversight has been strengthened to ensure accountability. Previously meetings would collapse due to quorum issues that were blamed on the infighting within the ANC caucus.

Thebolla said things have also improved administratively because the municipality has appointed the city manager, Madoda Khathide, and filled some of the critical vacant posts such as that of the waste manager. “If it wasn’t for the lockdown we would have also filled the positions of the two general managers (for infrastructure and community services) by now, but we are expecting to resume the process soon now that the country will be downgrading to Level 3,” said Thebolla.

To ensure accountability at City Hall, he said council signed a performance agreement with Khathide and he also had to do the same with his officials.

CONSEQUENCE MANAGEMENT

“The challenge that we still need to address is the issue of outstanding investigations, with cases dating as far back as 2016. These create a lot of uncertainty in terms of officials who are facing the charges so we need to finalise those as soon as possible so that people can know whether they are staying with us or the municipality needs to find their replacements,” said Thebolla.

He said some of the cases are being investigated by Cogta and others by the Special Investigating Unit.

Mzila said there are 81 internal investigations ranging from minor transgressions to major acts of maladministration, fraud and corruption.

He said several of these matters have been referred to the SAPS for criminal investigation.

He said 33 of the 67 disciplinary processes that were conducted between July 2019 and March 2020 have been completed. “Of the 67, 25 employees are on suspension, including six employees implicated in serious criminal activities (four of whom are implicated in the SIU investigation on the security tender).

“The disciplinary processes will resume after lockdown. It is intended that the backlog will be eliminated by October 2020,” he said.

FINANCIAL STABILITY

Thebolla said the non-payment for and theft of municipal services continue to be a problem.

He said the plans to implement strategies to curb these are some of the measures that were derailed by the lockdown.

His sentiments were echoed by Mzila, who said 50 of Msunduzi’s 100 main debtors have been served with notices of intention to disconnect services but then Cogta directed municipalities not to cut off services while the lockdown is in place.

On the appointment of the 25 debt collectors who are supposed to collect R1,7 billion of the R4 billion owed to Msunduzi, Mzila said “progress has been slow but it is improving”.

But it is not all gloom as the cash flow of the municipality had begun to improve as shown by collections between July 2019 and March 2020, averaging R373 million and more. However, this trend has been interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic with the collections declining drastically from April 2020.

“Extraordinary measures will have to be implemented to improve the situation again,” conceded Mzila.

Such measures should include cost reduction as well as another adjustment budget as approved by National Treasury. This requires the budget reprioritisation in terms of the impact of the Covid-19 items that were not part of the initial budget and the downward adjustment of revenue.

Mzila said a programme to verify indigent customers across all wards will start after the lockdown.

“The exercise to identify challenges related to theft of prepaid electricity is 75% complete. A plan is being developed to deal with this problem. The fixing of the weighbridge at the landfill site is almost complete and is currently being calibrated and should start functioning in a week or two,” he said.

WASTE MANAGEMENT

As part of the revenue enhancement strategy Mzila said, the administrator, Scelo Duma, has proposed that a new tax targeting single-use plastics be introduced. “Revenue so generated will be used to recapitalise the landfill site, clean the rivers and wetlands as well as fund recycling initiatives (negotiations with National Treasury started on May 4).

If found to be viable, the tax will be introduced in 2022.”

Mzila said internal negotiations led by Duma are also at an advanced stage to reallocate R30 million towards the recapitalisation of the waste management function, including the purchase of landfill site equipment and compactor trucks. Waste compaction and cover is expected to start next month and repairs on the landfill’s fence should be completed by the end of May. He said Msunduzi is also in the process of installing fire detectors to improve response time in the event of fires at the dump.

COMPLIANCE

Mzila said Msunduzi had developed an audit action plan, and had already submitted the half-yearly financial statements, which will assist in identifying key areas of improvement. “The municipality has declared a dispute with technology service provider EOH and a claim of undue enrichment has been lodged. This is now before the courts.”

Mzila said the revenue value chain has been reviewed to address the challenges and inefficiencies that were being experienced in terms of billing and debtor management.

HUMAN SETTLEMENT

Mzila said several housing projects that were stalled have been unlocked with the assistance of both the MEC for Finance Ravi Pillay and the MEC of Human Settlements Peggy Nkonyeni.

“The plan to distribute title deeds to more than 1 000 residents across the city was completed and approved by the war room before lockdown. The rollout plan was also approved.”

He said attempts to resolve the Aloe Ridge invasion by the MK military veterans are ongoing and will continue after lockdown.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  msunduzi municipality
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