Bid to save Msunduzi Municipality on verge of collapse
Citing severe mismanagement, financial collapse and lack of service delivery to Pietermaritzburg residents, the MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), Nomusa Dube-Ncube, announced her decision yesterday soon after a three-hour confidential full council meeting.
She lambasted the municipality’s senior managers for playing a key role in the city’s collapse.
“There are professional people who are employed here but are not doing what they are supposed to do. To think we have senior managers who are paid very nicely and meet monthly, but are not concerned about service delivery or even just the cleanliness of the city.
“The type of filth and dirt in this city is embarrassing,” she said.
“It has become clear to the provincial government that Msunduzi Municipality is no longer able, alone, to guarantee the provision of sustainable services to communities without an intervention from the national and provincial government.”
Cogta invoked Section 139 (1) (b), Administration of the Constitution on the municipality.
Under this section, the city council would not be dissolved.
However, Dube-Ncube said a ministerial team would oversee all operations, more specifically related to financial management and service delivery, including project management.
Although she did not divulge who the administrator was, it was believed the person was from Gauteng and worked for the national Cogta office.
Cogta spokesperson Lennox Mabaso said the identity of the administrator would be revealed “in due time” once it was finalised.
Over the past months, calls had been made from different quarters, including from opposition parties, for the municipality to be placed under administration.
This was after neighbouring municipalities such as Richmond and Mooi Mpofana had already been placed under administration because of poor governance and lack of service delivery.
The DA’s provincial leader Zwakhele Mncwango said it had been calling for urgent intervention for the past two years. Although he welcomed the decision, he said he was dismayed that the council had not been dissolved.
Mncwango said the city’s executive committee needed to be reshuffled, the organogram reviewed and specialist accountants needed to ensure revenue collection was back at its peak.
The IFP’s Dennis Ntombela also welcomed the intervention, saying the city had been in crisis “for far too long”.
“This is a sombre victory for the Msunduzi community. The situation should never have got this bad, but we are glad that the intervention is here and are hopeful that things will start to look up,” Ntombela said.
Dube-Ncube said the decision to place the city under administration was because of the inability of the municipality to hold its councillors accountable for deliberately absenting themselves from critical meetings and collapsing the quorum, and rendering the council dysfunctional.
She said the municipality also failed to institute consequence management measures for managers responsible for unauthorised and irregular expenditure.
“The Msunduzi Council has likewise failed to exercise oversight over management, with particular reference to the management of conditional grants resulting in under-expenditure, stopping or a threat to stop funds by the National Treasury,” she said.
The municipality once had nearly R1billion in its reserves, but over the past two years, things had taken a turn for the worse. Aside from registering disclaimer and adverse audit opinions in two successive years, the municipality had also battled to collect revenue.
Dube-Ncube said the municipality was owed about R3bn in revenue and had only enough money to pay salaries and meet its obligations for just over a month. She said the council had further failed to exercise oversight over management, resulting in the cash position of the municipality being overdrawn.
The council also failed to implement consequence management measures against people responsible for failing to maintain proper records, resulting in non-disclosure of pension and medical-aid deductions.
Minnesh Parmanand of the Msunduzi Ratepayers Forum said residents welcomed the intervention as they had seen first hand the collapse of services.
“Right now, we live in rot and as if the municipality does not exist. It is completely dysfunctional,” Parmanand said.