Cash-strapped Mpumalanga municipality which owes Eskom R1.1bn to meet its new administrator

By Loyiso Sidimba Time of article published Jun 3, 2021

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Johannesburg - The cash-strapped Lekwa Local Municipality in Standerton, Mpumalanga, has announced that a high-level delegation of deputy ministers and MECs will introduce its new administrator Johann Mettler on Thursday afternoon.

Lekwa municipal manager Gugu Mhlongo-Ntshangase informed Cosatu affiliate, the SA Municipal Workers’ Union, that Mettler will be introduced at the Standerton Town Hall following his appointment by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni after the council was dissolved.

According to Mhlongo-Ntshangase, deputy ministers of cooperative governance and traditional Affairs and finance, Obed Bapela and David Masondo, respectively, will be joined by Mpumalanga finance, economic development and tourism MEC Vusi Mkhatshwa and his cooperative governance and traditional affairs counterpart Busisiwe Shiba at Mettler’s introductory meeting.

Independent Media reported, on Thursday, that Mettler, formerly Nelson Mandela Bay Metro city manager, was due to take over.

Among his tasks are setting out a specific strategy to address Lekwa’s financial and service delivery problems, including the reduction of unnecessary expenditure and increase of revenue collection, to oversee all budgetary processes and approve a temporary budget, and revenue-raising mechanisms until the new council is elected.

Mettler must also prepare progress reports for Mboweni and his cooperative governance and traditional affairs counterpart Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma’s approval.

The municipality owes Eskom almost R1.1 billion in unpaid electricity bills, which has forced the power utility to implement power outages that residents refer to as “Lekwa shedding” in addition to the hated load shedding.

Lekwa has been struggling to have a full staff complement for a number of years, with its overall vacancy rate at 52% and 67% for senior management while it stands at 33% in the finance department and the position of chief financial officer has not been filled for a while, according to the Office of the Auditor-General.

The municipality has also been forced to use consultants to augment its staff. Daily and monthly preventative controls have not been implemented due to the high vacancy rate.

By the end of June 2019, the municipality had a balance of R741 million in its infrastructure budget, but management did not spend sufficiently on maintenance, to ensure that service delivery capacity was sustained, which contributed to electricity and water distribution losses of R112m and R63m, respectively.

Political Bureau

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