The council meeting held on February 28, and the events of the following weeks, are cause for great concern.
The Municipal Manger’s post remains vacant after 9 months, three acting appointments, and no further plans to appoint either a further acting incumbent or a permanent incumbent.
It is not possible for an organisation to function effectively without an accountable person at the helm, and Umdoni is paying a heavy price of the Mayor’s obvious unwillingness to conclude the recruitment process, and end the instability.
The mayor fails to provide reason for why this appointment has not occurred and we are left with the conclusion that the Provincial ANC leadership are keeping their options open for a “suitable” deployment, whilst the internal party changes filter down from National level. The impact this vacuum is having is far reaching.
A recent treasury circular 91 makes it clear that municipalities that have MM vacancies will not get grant funding roll-overs.
The Municipal Manager is the Accounting Officer and without an authorised incumbent in the post, there will be legal and financial consequences. For an organisation with operational expenditure of approximately R20 million per month, it is beyond irresponsible to permit this situation to continue.
The length of the grass on the verges, the size and number of potholes, the number of non-working streetlights, the absence of communication, these are direct consequences of NEGLIGENT GOVERNMENT.
It has taken a year for COGTA to finally deliver its report on their investigations into a long list of irregularities in Umdoni. It was literally read out to the council “in committee”, and council has not yet deliberated on the serious findings and recommendations despite the empty undertakings to do so.
It appears that the ANC, aided by COGTA, want to bury it and allow the looters to get away scott free.
The DA caucus submitted numerous matters for inclusion in the investigation, namely, theft of money from Motor Vehicle Licensing, expenditure on new council chambers that don’t exist, appointment of contractors without following due scm processes, and payment without due diligence to confirm deliverables (CBD project), wasteful expenditure due to mismanagement of contracts (Humberdale landfill), involvement of officials/councillors in municipal contracts, the list was quite long.
The council has adopted an “Adjustment Budget” by majority vote. It was evident that the document placed before the council was not based on the original budget, and contained errors that Treasury had found, amounting to 15 pages in small print.
The warnings by Treasury that the document “does not reflect its accurate financial performance or its true financial position”, had no impact on the majority of councillors who saw fit to approve it.
Treasury’s findings are consistent with the repeated findings and problems we have pointed out since the budget was adopted last year in May, and vindicates our decision not to vote in favour of a profoundly flawed document.
Under the circumstances Umdoni is facing a very negative audit outcome. As a governance structure, we remain uninformed of our real financial position and performance. Last week the ruling party saw fit to direct officials to book a 2 day stay at the luxurious Fairmont Zimbali Lodge Hotel for the annual Strategic Planning Workshop.
The DA councillors opted to travel rather than stay overnight. Our decision to attend the workshop was to prevent the ANC from excluding our IDP submissions on the basis that we did not attend the Strat Planning.
I have no doubt that they gambled on our non-attendance knowing that we object strongly to the wanton abuse of public funds. Our arrival caught them off guard and they attempted to abandon the workshop even thought it was paid for. We refused to go along with the abandonment and the workshop only started at 14:00 that afternoon, and ended at lunchtime the next day.
The limited time and lack of prepared material rendered the exercise a glorified waste of time and money. We did not consider any form of strategic direction or amendments to our IDP. The reports above will no doubt leave citizens with feelings of anxiety and anger over the affairs of our local government.
It is never a pleasant task to bear bad news but it has to be done in the interests of promoting change. So what are we to do? Elections take place next year and that is the time to change our destiny. Umdoni undoubtedly has the potential to succeed, but it will need new leadership to do so.
Council will be considering the 2018/19 budget in the months ahead.
Every citizen must take a personal interest in the process and be prepared to mobilise if this council fails to get its priorities right. The priorities must be roads, stormwater systems, streetlights, verges, pavements, street names, house numbers, refuse and recycling, environmental preservation, maintenance of public facilities.
Whilst these services are rendered by Umdoni, it must also facilitate formal housing, upgrading informal settlements, and encourage industrial/commercial growth to attract businesses that provide real jobs.
Our indigent support framework requires amendments, and we have to pursue revenue generation initiatives in the face of declining central government funding. Revenue losses due to generous rebates on selected high value properties & poor administration of rented properties can no longer be afforded.
We have to leverage income from poorly run municipal facilities that have the capacity to become revenue sources rather than cost centres, such as the campsite and cemetery.
Our roads remain the single most important element of public infrastructure, and we must therefore continue driving the Roads Campaign to put this infrastructure at no. 1 on the budget list. Make yourself heard, put your complaint in writing and send it to the MM and the Public Protector.
There is everything to gain and nothing to lose if you send your complaint to the right destination.
Our towns are worth saving, even in their neglected state.
They can be repaired, provided the budget priorities are changed and the municipality’s performance is improved through better governance and oversight.
Councillor Edwin Baptie:
DA Caucus Leader; Umdoni