Struggling Msunduzi slammed for spending millions on bodyguards
Durban - THE Msunduzi Municipality has come under fire for spending millions of rand on security for councillors.
The national Portfolio Committee on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) has taken the municipality to task for spending exorbitant amounts on security and bodyguards for councillors.
The committee engaged with the municipality last week on a variety of well-publicised problems that have recently plagued the council.
In a statement seen by The Mercury, the committee told Msunduzi mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla that the municipality’s security costs during the previous financial year, including those relating to the hiring of bodyguards for councillors, amounted to R80 million.
“Apart from eThekwini, no other municipality in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) paid this much for security services. This is an exorbitant amount and is harmful to the municipality’s cost-containment efforts,” said the chairperson of the committee, Faith Muthambi.
“The committee is also concerned that, in some instances, the municipality allocated bodyguards to councillors without the SAPS conducting a threat and risk analysis. Current legislation decrees that only executive mayors, mayors and speakers are entitled to two bodyguards.
“Msunduzi flouted these requirements and set aside R27.5 million to allocate six bodyguards to the mayor, two to the deputy mayor and 58 bodyguards to 15 councillors,” she said.
The committee also raised concerns about the municipality being under administration for the second time in 10 years.
“The spending on security is among the issues contributing towards Msunduzi becoming the subject of regular interventions, and we are concerned about this as cases of successful recovery in such instances is rare. The previous intervention invoked in Msunduzi, in October 2010, clearly did not bear fruit,” said Muthambi. The committee said it was also aware of reports of intimidation of senior management and staff working for the auditor-general during an audit of the municipality’s finances, the statement read.
Municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said spending on security was being investigated by their internal auditors.
DA councillor Sibongiseni Majola said he had repeatedly raised the issue of bodyguards.
“I have always said that the way we pay security guards is irregular,” said Majola. He said the process should start with the SAPS doing a threat assessment of individuals and making a recommendation to council and, thereafter, council could take a decision if it had the budget.
“One of the things the committee looked at was the reason we were put under administration and whether there has been any improvement. There has been very little improvement and this council term has been wasted,” he said.
He said that to date the municipality had failed to manage its finances – as evident by the ballooning debtors’ book, as well as a failure to implement consequence management.
“We were supposed to make an example out of some so that other officials do not misbehave, but we failed to do that,” Majola added.
ACDP councillor Rienus Niemand said the spending on security painted a picture of a civil war raging in the council, that was being financed by ratepayers.
“The only killing that is taking place is between members of the ANC. The irony is that it is financed by ratepayers. The ACDP condemns this blatant flouting of the law and the regulations, in that it only allows for two bodyguards each – for the mayor, deputy mayor and speaker – without a proper risk assessment. The mismanagement of the city knows no bounds. Being under administration has made no difference whatsoever. This raises questions as to whether Cogta has the ability to exercise its powers independent of political influence, ” he said.