Concern at call for administration

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Sue Maclennan @SusanMaclennan2

Council officials expressed surprise at a demand from a coalition calling themselves Concerned Citizens of Grahamstown,  acting with the support of attorneys Wheeldon Rushmere and Cole, that Makana Municipality be placed under administration in terms of Section 139(5) of the Constitution. And an expert has expressed doubt that the Province has the capacity to implement full administration.

The details of the demand were contained in a letter addressed to the Mayor, and circulated to media, councillors and political parties as well as municipal officials.

Signed by the chairperson of a group called the Concerned Citizens Committee, Ron Weissenberg, the letter refers to a special council meeting on 27 June in which alarming details of the municipality’s financial state were disclosed by councillors and officials.

The letter cited items in the agenda, most of which were discussed in the council meeting, including Makana’s debt of R146 184 978 as of the end of May 2017, and uncollected debt due to Makana of R366 812 651. Also discussed in the June meeting was the excessive overtime and wage bill. This is cited in the letter:

“80% of the municipality’s income is spent on salaries and on servicing debts. Overtime payment amounted to R5 000 000 per annum whilst only R2.1 million was budgeted for.”

READ THE FULL DOCUMENT HERE:
2017 Administration call by Concerned Citizens 05072017_150614

However, while the letter points out the Mayor’s and the Council’s admission that the financial crisis means they are unable to perform their Constitutional obligations, Council officials believe the demand for administration flies in the face of a decision taken in the Council meeting.

Acting municipal manager Dali Mlenzana said he was taken aback.

“The Council openly admitted the financial crisis and a resolution was taken, among other things, to mandate the Mayor to form a task team to work together in addressing it. The very people we had earmarked to be in this think tank are the ones now going ahead before any discussions on strategies to turn this municipality around,” Mlenzana said.

“This is how a democracy works, however, and just because we didn’t see the punch coming, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t meet with these groups to try and understand their position. Even though we are baffled by this action, we will speak to them.”

Spokesperson for the DA’s Makana caucus Mlindi Nhanha was sceptical about the value to Makana of another round of administration.

“We can call for administration tomorrow,” Nhanha said. “Bhisho will bring a deployee who will earn a fat cheque and nothing will happen – instead pushing us back two or three months.

“This group should rather put their energy into insisting that National Treasury and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta)  provide the support they promised when they agreed to the terms of Makana’s financial recovery plan.”

ANC chief whip in Makana Mabhuti Matyumza Thursday declined to comment on the document, saying the caucus was yet to discuss it.

“There are a number of procedures to be followed when calling for administration, and these have implications. We will consider the document as a party; however, we will respond according to what we feel is best for the whole community, rather than a party-based response,” Matyumza said.

Local government researcher at the Public Service Accountability Monitor Lungile Penxa said there was a risk of the Province intervening for the sake of compliance.

“Makana civic organisations are mostly calling for the municipality to be placed under full administration,” Penxa said. “If It is feasible, Cogta, the office of the Premier and Provincial Treasury can intervene in Makana Municipality under section 139 (1) (b) (i) (iii) and s139 (5) (a). If the previous interventions by these three provincial departments were implemented by the Municipality, this will increase chances of them intervening again. If not, it means they will be intervening for the sake of compliance.”

Penxa said it was important to also think about whether these provincial departments had capacity to implement full administration. “Most municipalities in the province and in the entire county are in a financial and administrative crisis,” Penxa said.

“The Makana Unity League is proposing an intervention under section 139(5) of the RSA Constitution. Section 139 (5) of the Constitution is about a financial assistance which is not the root cause of the problem in the Makana Municipality; the municipal problems require more than just money.”

Penxa said when the municipality was previously placed under administration based on Section 139 (1) (b), there was a financial recovery plan in place to assist the municipality.

“Did the municipality implement this recovery plan? How effective was it to address the problems of the municipality, which still persist today? Did the Eastern Cape Cogta, Premier and the Eastern Cape Provincial Treasury monitor the implementation of this recovery plan? The current financial problems are clearly signs that the Municipal problems are more than just money.”

READ PENXA’S FULL COMMENT HERE:
Comment on call for full admin of MM

*Ron Weissenberg who is leading this action in his personal capacity is also a columnist for Grocott’s Mail.

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