Richmond’s Mayor Siminenkosi Ndlovu has vowed to recover all the monies owed to the municipality by officials who committed acts of financial misconduct.
“Those who have done wrong must pay back the money,” he said on Sunday.
He was speaking at meeting convened as part of the district visit of the Deputy Minister for the Public Service and Administration, Sindisiwe Chikunga, to uMgungundlovu.
She was in the area to assess progress on service delivery reforms and economic recovery interventions in the district.
Chikunga received status reports on the interventions that were recommended to address governance and service delivery challenges as well as progress on the implementation of mitigation measures outlined in the outcomes of the auditor-general reports on Richmond.
Richmond is one of the three uMgungundlovu local municipalities that are under administration, but both Suzie van der Westhuizen from the provincial Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) and the administrator, Nokuthula Khanyile, said the intervention would soon be lifted.
Ndlovu, who was appointed in September following the death of Joseph Mchunu, said Richmond may have its own challenges but implementing consequence management was not one of them. “We are a council that is able to fight corruption and we have done that. We must mention that because if we don’t then it seems like we are covering up. We’ve dismissed the former municipal manager and the former CFO (chief financial officer).”
He said they also recently dismissed the manager of the project management unit. The related investigation into the allegations of overpaying a contractor is still underway. “Where wrong decisions were taken we need to recoup that money. We don’t know how far we will go to recoup that money but we will recoup to the last cent ...”
Ndlovu said while some of the forensic investigations were done by other government institutions, Richmond also handled some internally. He said being under administration helped them get the basics right and they did not want to regress.
He said Richmond had a history of political violence and instability, which stalled development as both the private investors and the government of the day previously ignored the small Midlands town.
Chikunga questioned the manner in which Cogta had been handling the intervention in Richmond.
“It is not normal that within a period of less than two years, since March 2019, the municipality has had four administrators.
“Cogta needs to look into the terms of reference of the administrators, their qualifications, experience and suitability to manage the affairs of an already ailing municipality,” she said.
At one stage the municipality was left without an administrator for a period of nine months, which Chikunga said made no sense. Van der Westhuizen shared some of the challenges Cogta encountered with the intervention in Richmond, including one of the administrators getting a permanent job elsewhere after just a month at the municipality.
She said Cogta was of the view that Richmond had been ready to come out of administration as far back as March but the provincial cabinet decided to extend all its interventions in municipalities until March next year.
She said the final forensic report was submitted to MEC Sipho Hlomuka on Tuesday evening and should be tabled before the Richmond council soon.
Richmond’s management also asked for intervention in two of its facilities — the non-compliant landfill site and the cemetery. The municipality received a non-compliance notice from the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs because it was not compacting the waste as it had no equipment.
Technical department’s Mzwandile Ntanzi said this risked their permit as the municipality did not even have a licence for the landfill and could be ordered to shut down if it failed to comply.
“Taking the waste to the closest landfill site, in Pietermaritzburg, would be too costly for us so we need to make sure we comply.”
Ntanzi described the issue of burial space as a “ticking time bomb” saying they had less than 200 graves left which would not even last a year. He said the municipality had identified land for a new cemetery but there was no funding to put up supporting infrastructure.
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However, Ndlovu said Ntanzi’s description was an exaggeration. He said since the studies had been completed on the new site, they just needed to fence the area, instal water and put ablution facilities.
“You don’t need a lot of money for that so you don’t need to wait for funding from elsewhere,” he said.
District manager, Ray Ngcobo, said Cogta had given uMgungundlovu a yellow plant fleet, which included graders and a compactor which Richmond could use if the municipality paid for the insurance. He said the issue of a regional landfill site was on uMgungundlovu’s plans as it was actually a district mandate.