Anger after under-admin Msunduzi Municipality misses budget target by R550 million
Durban - THE revelations about the finances of the Msunduzi Municipality have stunned and angered councillors who accused the council of failing to improve since it was placed under administration.
The finance unit and finance portfolio committee tabled the municipality’s draft annual financial report before the executive committee yesterday.
The report showed that the municipality had missed its budget target by R550million.
It had budgeted to collect about R6.3billion and only managed to collect about R5.8billion for the 2019-20 financial year.
The revelations annoyed councillors who described it as an indication that nothing had changed since the department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) intervened and placed the council under administration.
The report is expected to be submitted to the office of the auditor-general by the end of this month after municipalities were granted an extension of deadlines for submissions.
The municipality is under financial pressure and has admitted it is struggling to meet its financial obligations.
It further revealed yesterday that it could not fund the installation of solar geysers in about 500 new Jika Joe flats, which would come on line in December, because of financial constraints.
It said it would wait for the occupants to move in and pay rent and then use the rent to finance the necessary installations.
ANC councillor and finance committee member Mehmood Oumar said looking at the draft report, “we have not turned anything around as yet”.
“We are heading for serious trouble. As an ANC member, I am concerned about the situation.
“There have not been any cost-cutting measures, there is no consequence management. I see nothing that has changed since the time we were placed under administration,” he said.
He said key indicators were all going in the opposite direction for a city that should be turning the corner.
“Our debt is ballooning.
“The city can go after people who owe it R1000 and disconnect their lights but there are others who owe millions of rand, we know that one person recently paid R30m to the city after not paying for six years,” he said.
Oumar said part of the debt-management plan would be to do data cleansing.
Other councillors have in the past stated that the city’s indigent population was much higher than recorded by the city, which was therefore partly responsible for the ballooning debt.
“I am suggesting that we start from a zero-rated budget, all this planning has not achieved anything for us.
“Each unit should just table their needs and we start from there,” Oumar said.
DA councillor Sibongiseni Majola said the revelations were a clear indication that the municipality continued to pass unrealistic budgets.
He said missing the budget target by R550m was an indication that there had been no improvement in the management of the city’s finances.
“The answer to whether we are progressing or regressing is very clear from this figure.
“If you look at our budget for the previous financial year, we collected about R13million in fines and penalties (for by-law infringements) but this financial year we are budgeting to collect on R1million, what is that?
“This annual financial report clearly shows that the intervention by CoGTA has not improved the situation,” he said.
Municipal manager Madoda Khathide urged councillors and warned the media not to be excited by the report as it was only a draft.
Inaccurate billing among many obstacles preventing Msunduzi from achieving clean audit
AN Inaccurate billing system continues to cause problems for the Msunduzi Municipality and its ratepayers, and could be one of the obstacles in the way of the municipality achieving a clean audit.
It is one of several problems that have been identified by mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla, who said they needed attention.
In his final year as mayor, Thebolla has set an ambitious target to achieve a clean audit.
Delivering his report to exco yesterday, he said he did not only wanted a clean audit, he wanted it accompanied by service delivery on the ground.
The municipality was placed under administration by the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs a year ago, extended to March 31.
Thebolla said he had requested the city manager to place this “clean audit commitment by the mayor” as a standing item, “so that we may all be reminded of our ultimate goals that we aspire to be fulfilled before the end of this term”.
“I must indicate that I am not happy with a number of outstanding issues that have not yet been resolved and this includes: inaccurate billing system, ongoing poor spending patterns on grant funding, turn-around times in resolving issues that were raised by the A-G in previous audit reports, and failure to grow the economy of the town.”
However, Thebolla said there had been positive developments in the consistent domestic waste collection, repairs conducted on street lighting and proper maintenance of the landfill site.
DA leader Sibongiseni Majola said the mayor’s ambitions were the equivalent of daydreams.
“He is listing problems as achievements. The city is only clean at night when there is no one. We have one of the filthiest cities in the world. When he took over, 30% of the street lights were working and now, only 20%.
“On the issue of potholes, there are potholes in every road. We have only one financial year remaining, and the clean audit is unlikely to be achieved in that time,” he said.