Under pressure to provide services to residents while its revenue is dwindling, a municipality in KwaZulu-Natal is working to bring a private investigator to root out illegal connections to its power grid.
The Abaqulusi (Vryhied) local municipality says the investigator would also look at other acts of malfeasance within its ranks as it cleans its house to be better positioned to provide services after years of failure.
NEWS: Abaqulusi local municipality Mayor, Khehla Mkhwanazi, giving the media in Durban feedback 100 days after he took office. Among the challenges, he said are crippling them are cable theft and the ever-ballooning indigent register, suffocating the municipality. pic.twitter.com/97nZ58XD5l— Sihle Mavuso (@ZANewsFlash) September 29, 2023
The move to clean the troubled municipality in the north of the province was announced by Mayor Khehla Mkhwanazi on Thursday where he was accounting after 100 days in office.
Mkhwanazi was appointed when the IFP (Inkatha Freedom Party) rang changes and replaced some of its senior leaders after a string of scandals.
He was candid that there have been challenges in some areas, but said they are getting their house in order.
Among the challenges residents of Vryheid are poor roads in the central business district, ballooning Eskom debt, dirty streets and uncollected litter.
There are also allegations that the municipal is bloated with staff that was hired without budgeting for their salaries and the little money that is there is being abused through uncontrolled overtime.
However, Mkhwanazi said that would be a thing of the past, but their urgent task was to plug the leak in their power supply.
He estimated that at times they spend around R3 million to buy bulk power from Eskom and only to collect as little as R300,000 and that shows that there is a problem they have to address.
According to Mkhwanazi, the private investigator would have to look at allegations that even big companies could be stealing electricity and that some of their employees are part of the syndicate.
“We have some challenges when it comes to collecting our revenue and that is linked to illegal connections.
“Hence the scope of the private investigator will include illegal connections because we suspect there is a syndicate behind this, we even suspect that some businesses in town are illegally connected.
And these are big businesses you would not suspect them of doing this,” Mkhwanazi alleged.
He added that the problem of illegal connections is so rampant, that they even suspect that some of their staff members are involved in this as some of those disconnected are suddenly reconnected into the grid.
The private investigator would also look at the issue of fuel theft from municipal vehicles and stripping their tires.
“We decided that the scope of the private investigator should look into issues like fuel theft and stripping of tires from our parked cars.
“As an entity, you can’t have this amount of loss and fold your arms and do nothing,” Mkhwanazi said.