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Pietermaritzburg - The Msunduzi Municipality, which encompasses Pietermaritzburg, only has enough funds to operate for a month.

Msunduzi municipality's chief financial officer Nelly Ngcobo on Wednesday finally admitted that the municipality was in financial trouble with just enough funds to operate for one month.

The startling revelation was made during a heated finance committee meeting where senior officials were lambasted for allegedly blindsiding councillors and plunging the municipality into chaos in the process.

The admission from the CFO confirmed a long held suspicion in many quarters that the municipality is battling to stay afloat after receiving a disclaimer in the 2016/17 financial year. 

The report tabled at the meeting indicated that the municipality has moved from having over a billion rands in reserve to just R280 million. 

According to Ngcobo, this was a dire situation as organisations are supposed to have money to operate for at least three months. "We are in a crisis, we are in a situation that is not looking good, the alarm bells are ringing," she told visibly upset councillors. 

She expressed hope that a turnaround strategy which includes cost-cutting measures and an improved revenue collection plan would help improve the financial standing of the municipality.

Committee members called for responsible officials to be brought to book. "How can we move from a position where we had over a billion rands in our reserves to this? Who are the officials responsible for putting the municipality in such a situation because they need to be held liable?" said committee member Mehmood Oumar of the African National Congress (ANC).

Another committee member and fellow ANC councillor Sandile Dlamini accused officials of sugarcoating problems in the municipality. "The problem is officials always have an answer to every question, but things do not improve," said Dlamini.  

Democratic Alliance (DA) and Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) councillors in the committee said more drastic measures needed to be taken to deal with the crisis. "If this report says as of 31 December we had money to operate for a month, this means the situation is probably more dire and something drastic needs to be done," said the DA's Sibongiseni Majola in calling for the municipality to be placed under administration. 

The IFP's Dennis Ntombela said  the problem was too massive to ignore. "We need to be honest with ourselves, the municipality is a massive structure that needs to be run properly, not like a spaza shop." 

According to councillors the latest revelations should be a source of shame to everyone concerned as it is the second largest municipality in the province after eThekwini metro.  

While ANC councillors conceded to the problems, they rejected calls for the municipality to be placed under administration, insisting on seeing the turnaround plan from management before deciding on the next course of action. 

City Manager Sizwe Hadebe, however, downplayed talk of a crisis, expressing confidence that the assistance from provincial and national treasury, coupled with the turnaround strategy would ensure that the municipality survives.    

Wednesday’s development comes in the wake of a service delivery protest march by residents of Dambuza who decried levels of corruption in the municipality, and calling for the resignation of Mayor Themba Njilo and members of his executive committee.

African News Agency/ANA