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Fears of abuse of scarce skills allowance in Msunduzi

An aerial view of the Pietermaritzburg City Hall, home of the local Msunduzi Municipality.

An aerial view of the Pietermaritzburg City Hall, home of the local Msunduzi Municipality. File Picture: Shelley Kjonstad

Published Jun 21, 2023


Durban - The Msunduzi Municipality has launched an investigation into the alleged abuse of the scarce skills allowance after it emerged that it was spending over R7 million each year paying 163 employees the allowance.

Last week, Msunduzi municipal manager Lulamile Mapholoba, in a special council sitting, conceded that while the idea of such an allowance had been noble, it had been abused severely by some staff.

He cited the abuse of the scarce skills allowance as the reason the municipality was enlisting the help of a legal advisor to deal with the policy.

Mapholoba indicated that there were individual staff without a particular and sought-after skill, who were receiving this allowance on a regular basis when they did not deserve it.

“On average we are spending around R658 000 per month on the skills allowance,” Mapholoba said.

This means the municipality spends R7.8m each year on the item.

Seasoned local government practitioner and former eThekwini city manager Dr Michael Sutcliffe said one of the ways of determining a scarce skill was the number of responses for an advertised position, which could be determined by the location of the place of work.

He noted that the Local Government Sector Education Training Authority (LG Seta) had determined a set of occupations which fell within the category of scarce skills.

According to the LG Seta, emerging occupations, lack of supply and sector attractiveness were factors that determined whether the skill was scarce or critical, thereby determining whether a candidate deserved such an allowance. Sutcliffe cited how in one town, no one wanted to take the job of a grave digger, and this prompted authorities to improve their offer.

“This demonstrated that sometimes the scarce skill does not have to be a nuclear physicist, but can also be a job that no one wants to take up,” Sutcliffe said.

A report presented to the council titled Skill Audit Implementation Plan highlighted some of the challenges within the municipality’s workforce: An ageing workforce that compromises service delivery by not imparting knowledge to junior staff who have potential of taking leadership positions in future. Poor identification of training and development needs of the municipality because of the low levels of experience in critical service delivery departments such as technical, finance and development planning.

The report indicated that an audit of qualifications for general managers was undertaken and responses were received from all of them.

“Those managers who did not meet the minimum requirements for their posts were given a written ultimatum by the city manager to update their credentials and hand them to the unit to update their records,” said the report.