Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni File photo: Reuters

Cape Town – The Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry has welcomed the clampdown on mayoral gravy trains and other wasteful expenditure by municipalities on the instruction of Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni.

“This is the best news we’ve had in weeks,” said Geoff Jacobs, president of the chamber. “Nearly two-thirds of our municipalities are dysfunctional or in financial distress and it is high time that firm action was taken.”

Jacobs said further evidence of municipal failures was the fact that they owed Eskom R17 billion. 

He welcomed the ban on free drinks at council meetings; restrictions on catering; limiting entertainment expenses for qualifying officials to just R2 000 a year; the ban on credit cards linked to municipal accounts; and only economy class tickets for flights.

“Perhaps the most important change is the restriction on the use of expensive consultants, often to do work that should be done by well-paid municipal officials.

“What seems to be happening is that many municipalities collect money for electricity from consumers and then spend it on other projects. This is not just wrong but it is also dishonest.”

Commenting on the use of consultants, Jacobs said: "The Zondo commission of inquiry has taught us that one of the most widely used forms of corruption is the over-payment of consultants and facilitators, often for little or no work. 

"This has cost Eskom and Transnet many billions of rand and it is likely that some municipalities have been bled in the same way.”

He said municipalities used to be modest organisations but this was no longer true. Salaries and benefits were now well above market rates and offices and conference rooms were luxurious.

“As a chamber we say, ‘well done, Mr Mboweni’, but we must ask why it has taken so long? Surely the SA Local Government Association knew what was going on but we did not hear a squeak out of them,” Jacobs said. 

Perhaps the time has come to review the mandate and terms of reference of Salga and hold this body to account, he asked.

Cape Times