Committee concerned about lengthy suspensions

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) says it is concerned about Limpopo municipalities that continue to lose money due to the lengthy suspensions of municipal officials involved in decisions to invest in the Venda Mutual Bank (VBS).

This is despite the fact that a forensic investigation undertaken by Limpopo MEC of Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs, Basikopo Makamu, and various municipal councils found that these officials, mainly municipal managers and chief financial officers, committed financial misconduct in terms of section 171 (2), (3) and 173 (1)(a)(iii) of the Municipal Finance Management Act.

In Elias Motsoaledi Local Municipality, the municipality spent over R900 000 so far remunerating the suspended municipal manager, who has been sitting at home drawing a salary.

The amount includes the acting allowance that the current acting manager is being paid to act in the position.

What is even more worrying is that the disciplinary process has been postponed indefinitely since 30 April 2019, with no clear timeline for the resumption of the process.

“What is particularly regrettable is that the R900 000 is not inclusive of the legal fees the municipality continued to pay to deal with the case of the municipal manager.

“Many municipalities have long completed the disciplinary processes with the municipal manager and chief financial officer, but there is seemingly no commitment from the leadership of Elias Motsoaledi to deal with the matter expeditiously. This matter smells of malicious compliance,” said Faith Muthambi, Chairperson of the committee.

The committee welcomes the commitment to deal with the matter within the next 30 days and stop what the committee considers fruitless and wasteful expenditure, which might lead to a regression in audit opinion in the current financial year.  

Regarding Fetakgomo Tubatse Local Municipality, the committee says it is unacceptable that some of the R230 000 000 lost through VBS as investment is inclusive of R80 000 000 funding for the Integrated National Electrification Programme (INEP), which directly impacted on the ability of the municipality to roll out an electrification programme. This undermines the project of improving the lives of the people.

The committee is also concerned by the lack of stability at senior management level in the municipality. The committee is of the view that going through seven municipal managers since 2016 is unsustainable and contributes to the weakening of governance within the municipality.

Furthermore, the vacancy rate of almost 50% directly impacts on the ability of the municipality to service the people of Fetakgomo Tubatse.

The committee also cautioned against the overreliance on consultants, despite the fact that the municipality had a permanent CFO during the year under review and dismissed outright the insinuation that the municipality is struggling to attract employees with the requisite skills. This is because the municipality is a special economic zone.

It is also unacceptable that, as a result of VBS investments, municipalities continue to struggle to pay service providers on time, with some paying suppliers after 150 days. Small and medium enterprises are the lifeblood of the economy and must be protected at all times. This includes ensuring that they are paid on time for services rendered.

The committee engaged with the Lepelle-Nkumbi, Mogalakwena and Thabazimbi municipalities before making its recommendations. –