George Mari, MPP
DA KZN Spokesperson on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA)
REPORTS that the Msunduzi municipality failed to adhere to Supply Change Management (SCM) procedures, awarding a lucrative tender for a SMS/MMS billing service without the contract going out to tender, should set alarm bells ringing.
On 19 June the provincial COGTA portfolio committee conducted an oversight visit to Msunduzi to check on the progress of this municipality. Representatives of the DA were present when the Municipal Manager announced that a new SMS/MMS billing system would be introduced in a bid to improve debt collection – a moved welcomed by the DA.
At no time did the Municipal Manager bring to our attention the fact that the contract for this billing system had not gone out to tender and that it had been awarded under Section 36.
The Municipal Manager’s lack of transparency is a major concern made all the worse by the fact that one of the municipality’s strategies is to improve financial administration through proper supply change management. Deviation from this process has been cited as one of the main reasons for the rampant fraud and corruption, which led to the municipality being placed under administration.
The oversight visit further revealed that Msunduzi’s debt currently stands at around R899 million, with approximately R542 million of that being over 90 days. This is a huge threat to the municipality’s sustainability. The Municipal Manager did inform portfolio committee members that government debt was an ongoing problem. The DA will submit written parliamentary questions to both the province’s COGTA and Finance MEC’s requesting that the provincial Treasury develop and implement a debt management system for historic debt that remains uncollectable.
While some overall improvements were noted during the visit, concern has been expressed in the following areas;
– Water loss. Little is being done to address the huge losses through theft and leaks. Capital must also be sourced to address the ageing infrastructure.
– Staff shortages within critical vacancy areas. The Infrastructure Implementation Department has only one manager.
– Lack of skilled and effective Traffic Police. There remain officers who are still not cleared of previous transgressions, including a skills gap to establish whether they are fit for purpose.
– Forensic investigations and action against errant officials needs to be concluded to ensure clean governance. All disciplinary matters have not been concluded.
While Msunduzi may have moved out of the crisis phase and onto a more stable level, there is much work to be done before it can move into a recovery phase and, with it, a financially viable situation.