Johannesburg - Pikitup has paid more than R600 000 for an all-expenses-paid international trip to Austria for eight officials – but is forcing local residents to pay for replacements bins lost through use or theft.
These officials, who include Pikitup chief executive Amanda Nair, are due to leave for Austria before the end of the month. Pikitup sponsored the trip in full, even though it is turning down a request for new dustbins by local residents.
Early this year, the public utility told residents and customers applying for the replacement of their wheelie refuse bins that they would be charged R385 (excluding VAT) for bin replacements.
Pikitup is struggling with a huge operating deficit of more than R400m and a shortage of trucks to collect refuse.
The Star can reveal that bookings for a delegation of eight people have been made by Pikitup for a trip to Austria. The flights for the entire delegation would cost Pikitup R583 406.40, or R63 970 per person.
The R600 000 does not include accommodation for the eight. It is also believed that the utility will foot the bill for accommodation, leading to an escalation of costs.
On Thursday, Pikitup confirmed that it was considering a visit to Austria and Germany on a work study trip, to learn best practices and review strategies on alternative waste treatment.
Pikitup spokeswoman Desiree Ntshingila said such study tours would afford the utility an opportunity to learn best practices and world-class technologies in alternative waste treatment being implemented in those countries.
DA councillor Alan Fuchs reacted with anger when he learnt how much the trip would cost.
“That sounds absolutely ridiculous. That’s certainly a hell of a lot of money. They must justify that kind of cost,” he retorted.
Fuchs also questioned the size of the delegation that was going on the trip.
“Why is it necessary for the delegation to be so big? Another question is: Have they chosen the correct people?” he asked.
But Fuchs said he was in support of the innovative waste-treatment technology that would enable Pikitup to reduce the volume of waste that was dumped in landfill sites.
He said the innovative waste-treatment technology was important because Joburg is running out of space to put refuse and it was also expensive to establish landfill sites.
Fuchs said innovative waste-treatment technology was one of the mechanisms of dealing with the problem.
He warned that trips should not be undertaken to ensure that the budget allocated to Pikitup was spent before the end of the financial year. Pikitup’s financial year ends at the end of the month.
Fuchs said there were various trips undertaken by councillors during that period to ensure they didn’t lose unspent money.
“Recently, councillors have travelled to Canada, China, Brazil and Uganda. What concerns me is that unspent money was spent on overseas trips. That’s obviously not acceptable,” he said.
Fuchs said Pikitup was technically insolvent and had been run into the ground by the previous management. He said the new management team had proposed a turnaround strategy to reduce the deficit as well as improve operations to ensure that refuse was collected on time.
“We need to give the new team an opportunity to implement their strategy. If it has not improved drastically by June 2014, we need to call for their heads,” he added.