In a fiery meeting on Wednesday, councillors demanded that Msunduzi major Themba Njilo and the City manager, Sizwe Hadebe, take responsibility for the City’s “embarrassing” and “disgraceful” audit report.But in a media statement after the meeting, Njilo said the leadership was taking full responsibility for the outcome and will be addressing issues raised by the auditor-general (AG).“We feel we have let our ratepayers down and as such, we can no longer continue with this blatant incompetence of our staff,” he said.Njilo said residents should not panic as the City is still financially viable and able to meet all its service delivery obligations.This was in reaction to a presentation by Futhi Mhlongo, from the auditor-general’s office, who slammed the City’s leadership and management for failing to oversee financial and performance reporting as well compliance with legislation.She told the dejected-looking councillors that Msunduzi regressed from last year’s qualified audit opinion to a disclaimer because effective measures were not taken to address the AG’s previous findings.Some of the recurring issues of concern are the inadequate supporting evidence for adjustments made in the financial statements and a lack of accountability.Mhlongo said there is also a problem with delays in dealing with misconduct and suspensions and projects are also not implemented timeously, which impacts on service delivery.“There is inadequate consequence for poor performance and transgression. If officials flout legislation and there is no consequence, such behaviour could be viewed as acceptable,” she warned.Mhlongo said the leadership failed to provide oversight, but all the councillors blamed Hadebe and the managers, saying reports required were not submitted to council timeously.They were all unanimous in their view that the audit opinion is embarrassing, and the opposition parties described it as disgraceful.The ANC councillors demanded that management prepare an operational plan explaining how the City ended up with a disclaimer and how they are going to address the issues highlighted by Mhlongo.“Some of the things could have been prevented and we need to know why that was not done and how are we going to stop repeating past mistakes,” said Sbusiso Mtshali.The speaker, Jabu Ngubo, said the report speaks to the failure of the entire leadership and said urgent intervention is needed to ensure that people take responsibility for their actions.“Municipal manager [Hadebe], at the administrative level, the buck stops with you. You can’t blame junior officials, and the mayor, the buck stops with you at the political level,” she said.The DA’s Sibongiseni Majola proposed that the City approach the MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), Nomusa Dube-Ncube, and ask her to place Msunduzi under administration.He said the financial and performance reports of the current financial year are already pointing towards an either qualified or disclaimer audit opinion.“We never learn from our mistakes. The same issues keep coming up over and over again ... It makes no sense that the same management team that gave us the clean audit is now failing us like this and the only thing that has changed between then and now is the accounting officer, which is the municipal manager,” said Majola.The proposal was supported by the IFP and ACDP but the ANC voted against it, saying they should instead use the next six months to try and turn things around.The ACDP’s Rienus Niemand said there is collusion between the ANC and the administration. He said the governing party defends the officials when they are called to account on poor performance instead of making them face the consequences.In his statement after the meeting, Njilo also said: “The municipality has developed a turn-around strategy that will address the audit outcomes. As the mayor, I will make certain that all systems, controls and procedures are overhauled to ensure that the municipality is operating optimally.”The mayor said there will be a major focus on the filling of key and critical positions and consequence management will be applied where necessary.“The leadership will be cracking the whip and showing no mercy in ensuring compliance,” he said.