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The Msunduzi municipality has been placed under administration after descending into "turmoil", with its mayor and municipal manager stripped of their executive powers.
"This radical decision by cabinet stems from the untenable situation which has seriously compromised the state of good governance and service delivery in the Msunduzi municipality," said Nomusa Dube, KwaZulu-Natal's local governance and traditional affairs MEC, on Thursday.
"The situation has deteriorated, it's in a state of turmoil."
Dube said her department had received several complaints, and service delivery in the area, which includes Pietermaritzburg, was on the verge of collapse.
All executive functions, powers and responsibilities would be assumed by her office with immediate effect. The decision had been taken after a number of problems faced by the municipality, especially with its finances.
"Msunduzi municipality is the capital of KwaZulu-Natal and an economic hub - we have had a number of interactions with the Msunduzi management," said Dube.
During these meetings, the administration had denied any problems, she said.
"Even when the auditor general indicated that there were problems in finances.
"The municipal council has condoned irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure as is evident from the auditor general's report on the 2008/2009 financial year.
"The has dismally failed to exercise an oversight role over the municipality's administration."
Despite several interventions by her department, it had gone from one disaster to another, she said.
In February, Dube announced that her office would take over the municipality's administration. She sent three experts, two accountants and an auditor to look at expenditure and supply chain management.
"The deployed financial experts have reported that there is a lack of co-operation from certain senior managers of the municipality, who have issued instructions to staff not to provide urgently required information on the basis of which a comprehensive financial recovery plan would be developed," Dube said.
The government had thus been forced to introduce tougher measures.
"Someone should have alerted somebody - somebody didn't do something. Someone has to account - they will face the full might of the law," she said.
She added that the administrator assigned to turn the municipality around would focus on basic service delivery, improving financial systems, enhancing revenue collection and improving institutional capacity and performance.
The administrator would be helped by the three experts appointed in February.
The municipality's leaders had acknowledged the problems.
"I must say that I was impressed to learn that the leadership is recognising the shortcomings... They have accepted the interventions in good spirit and committed themselves to providing full support to the administrator in turning around the municipality," she said.
She warned the council that it would be dissolved if it further refused to co-operate with the administrator.
"Should there be any refusal to co-operate or to take the appropriate decisions, I will be left with no other option but to revert to the executive council and request that the council be dissolved."
In February it was reported that the municipality had enough money to function for a week. The municipality's net available cash fell from R120 million in 2007/2008 to R1.7m in 2008/2009. - Sapa