Durban - Opposition parties are calling for the reinstatement of eThekwini Municipality’s stand-alone finance committee to exercise oversight over the city’s purse.
The call was made yesterday during a sitting of the city’s executive committee, which coincided with Mxolisi Kaunda’s inaugural meeting as the mayor.
At the meeting, it was decided to add finance to the portfolio of security and emergency services, however, the DA and IFP opposed this move and called for a separate committee, tasked with overseeing the city’s finances to assist in eradicating irregular expenditure and mismanagement of ratepayers’ money.
DA eThekwini caucus leader Nicole Graham said the finance committee collapsed in 2016 after the election of former mayor Zandile Gumede.
“There was one committee that dealt with community services and emergency services. This has since been broken into two committees and the finance committee was no more. There used to be a standalone finance and procurement committee, but now financial matters come directly to exco,” she said.
Graham attributed this move to a deliberate attempt to reduce oversight of financial matters in the municipality.
In the past financial year, the city incurred more than R580million in irregular expenditure.
Graham said there had been many calls for the finance committee to be reinstated but these had fallen on deaf ears. She said Kaunda’s attitude towards the reinstatement was positive.
“The reinstatement of the committee is critical. There needs to be a month-by-month monitoring of exactly what’s going on. The committee would also manage procurement and know who is being awarded tenders. A committee that has exclusive oversight is important,” she said.
IFP councillor Mdu Nkosi said the committee would have a drastic impact on irregular and wasteful expenditure.
“I sat as a member of the previous committee and we were able to thoroughly interrogate every financial statement that came to us. In exco, we do not have enough time and that is why officials are able to get away with so much. If we bring back the committee, we can effectively and decisively deal with issues of financial mismanagement,” he said.
Kaunda noted the recommendations made, saying it would need to be brought before a full council meeting before a decision was taken.
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) has welcomed the call to reinstate the finance committee.
City finance manager, Krish Kumar, said the reinstatement will ensure that financial matters have a dedicated committee that will deliberate and give due attention to the city's finances.
"The committee will certainly focus on reducing irregular expenditure and ensure that units manage their expenditure and income effectively without any over expenditure. It will also ensure value for money on expenditure and that cost containment regulations are monitored. The committee will provide oversight on supply chain management and monitor the fleet management of council. It will also provide insight on valuation of property, leases and acquisition and disposal of council property," he said.
Moreover, Kumar said the committee will ensure the effectiveness of the billing system and revenue completeness.