Ilembe’s downward spiral

Salary increases and performance bonuses are not on the cards for Ilembe councillors as a consequence of poor performance

This is according to KZN Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube who has vowed to crack the whip on municipalities whose annual finance reports showed they have backslid compared to the previous financial year.

“We are introducing a radical audit outcome strategy going forward.

“We vow to ensure that disciplinary actions are taken and that no salary increments or performance bonuses are paid to officials of municipalities which achieved poor audit outcomes or their councillors,”said Dube-Ncube.

Also read: Ilembe business mood plummets

Ilembe municipality is under the microscope after it was found to be one of 13 municipalities in KZN to receive a negative audit for the 2016/2017 financial year.

Speaking in Durban last week, Dube-Ncube identified the root causes of the negative audits: slow response to improving key internal controls by senior management and political leadership, inadequate consequences for poor performance and vacancies in key management positions.

However, Ilembe mayor Sduduzo Gumede said the municipality received an unqualified audit because they did not pay their debtors on time.

He denied that officials would not receive salary increases or performance bonuses, although this was contested by Cogta spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela.

Also read: Ilembe blows R1.3m on games

Gumede said: “The municipal finance act states that we need to pay our debtors within 30 days and we cannot meet that deadline which is the only reason for the unqualified report. We inherited a municipality that was struggling financially and we have improved it by increasing our debt collection rate and increasing the money in our reserves.”

The district municipality has been struggling to keep afloat after poor decision-making, mainly during the crippling drought two years ago, nearly caused bankruptcy.

Money from reserves had been used to pay for water tankers while the collection rate was around 40 percent.

With a turnaround strategy in place, the newly elected councillors, led by Gumede, have been able to increase their reserves to 45 days and their collection rate to 72 percent.

However, DA caucus leader Madhun Sing said the annual report showed that more progress needed to be made before they were out of the woods.

“While the municipality scrambles to find money to fix ageing infrastructure, some of which has not been replaced in nearly 52 years, water loss mainly due to leaks and illegal connections has cost the municipality R39 million, almost 11 million more than 2015/2016.

“Just recovering from a crippling drought, water loss in the districts stands at 52.28 percent, above the national allowed threshold of 37 percent.

“All this is attributed to illegal connection, reservoir overflows and water leaks. The trend indicates we are not winning. The loss of another additional R11 million from the previous financial year cannot be ignored. If it is not rectified through regular oversight and intervention this will lead the council into paralysis.”

Also read: Crackdown on illegal water connections

Sing said while fruitless and wasteful expenditure sat at more than R 500 000, he believed that changes needed to be made within some divisions of the council. One of these is Enterprise Ilembe, which is tasked with driving local economic growth.

“As at June 30, 2017, the entity incurred a net loss of R 574 173 and its liabilities exceeded the current assets by R 2.6 million. The big question is do we have competent people to drive this vehicle for the economic growth of our district?

“Our view is no. Whether the entity is still relevant is an area for discussion. We cannot plough money into something that is not bearing fruit.”

Mayor Gumede did not deny the DA’s claims but said they were taken out of context.

He said that the municipality was improving and that Enterprise Ilembe played a role in economic growth in the district.

“Every district should have a development agency which will help to create jobs and put bread and butter on the table for many people in Ilembe. Their mandate will be changing where there will be bigger projects that are in line with what the province wants to achieve,” he said.

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  AUTHOR
Erica Abrahams
Journalist

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