DURBAN - THE Msunduzi Municipality’s over-reliance on consultants to do the work of council employees saw the embattled municipality pay out R207 million last year.
Between July 2019 and October 2020, the municipality paid R207m for consultants, and this figure was R183m in September the previous year.
This was highlighted by municipal administrator Scelo Duma, who warned against the over-reliance on consultants and called on the municipality to improve internal capacity.
The issue of consultants has raised the alarm of opposition parties, who say the municipality can ill-afford spending so much money on consultants when it has staff employed to do the same work.
The municipality, in a report tabled by Duma in October, showed it had a large number of vacancies, especially in critical areas like trade services.
The infrastructure services spent R85m on consultants, followed by Budget and Treasury at R58m and Corporate Business Units at R20m. Sustainable Development spent R16m while Legal Services paid R13m.
“There is no doubt that the municipality relies heavily on consultants for activities that could possibly be in-sourced. The Internal Audit Unit, the Budget and Treasury Office, Infrastructure Services and Legal Services can be weaned off this over-reliance on consultants by building internal capacity. This will not be achieved in one year and cannot be achieved if not purposeful in approach,” said Duma.
He said measures had to be put in place to reduce the municipality’s reliance on consultants over a period of at least three years. “Key to this is the training and development of employees and the implementation of retention strategies,” he said.
ACDP councillor Rienus Niemand said the hiring of consultants was a concern and was driven by the municipality’s failure to fill the vacancies and to attract the right skills.
“We were given a report this year that showed that most of the department heads were under-performing. We have situations where even the managers cannot do their jobs and the municipality is now hiring consultants to do their jobs.
“Even if you look at the contracts we have with the debt collectors, that should not have happened. We are giving council money away as that work should be done by the staff, those debt collectors cannot go wrong – if they collect, they get paid, if they do not, they lose nothing,” he said.
DA councillor Sibongiseni Majola said it was impossible to address the issue of consultants without looking at the issue of vacancies.
“We are not containing consultancy costs because we are sitting with a huge vacancy rate, we need to fill these positions with competent individuals whose skills are in line with the needs of the municipality,” he said.
Msunduzi mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla said the city was working hard to develop internal capacity to prevent over-reliance on consultants.
“In the infrastructure services, we are filling all the vacancies and we will be moving on to the other units. One of the things I have always stated is that staff must do the job they are hired to do, so the issue of staff morale is very important. As from this week, I will be back to the streets cleaning with the staff, not just to motivate them, but to show that there is no insignificant job in this municipality,” he said.