By Kevin Mileham MP, DA Shadow Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs:
The Democratic Alliance notes with extreme concern that the residents of Gariep Municipality face a holiday season without electricity arising from the municipality’s inability to manage its own finances.
In May 2015, when this crisis was last averted through protracted efforts by the DA at national, provincial and local level, the municipality had arrear debt to Eskom in excess of R34 million. At that time, the municipality was required to enter into a debt repayment agreement with Eskom, which, if it had been adhered to would have seen the municipality out of arrears with the parastatal by June 2016.
Unfortunately, due to poor financial management, and the lack of proper leadership (both within the administration and council), the situation has deteriorated and the municipality has failed to honour its obligations to Eskom.
Among the causes of this are the lack of a Chief Financial Officer (the former CFO resigned in 2014, and the acting CFO appointed to replace him in September 2015). It now appears that, despite a moratorium on the appointment of new staff due to the pending amalgamation of Gariep and Maletswai, the Gariep Municipal Council wishes to secretly appoint a CFO on a 3 year contract, rather than seeking a secondment from provincial treasury or the Department of Cooperative Governance.
The DA calls on the Mayor and Municipal Manager to immediately open up the debate around these issues to public input, to come clean with the citizens of Gariep about what the true situation is regarding the municipal finances and in particular, the arrear debt to Eskom. I will today write to the MEC for Cooperative Governance in the Eastern Cape, Fikile Xasa, requesting that he intervene in the municipality by deploying a qualified financial expert to the municipality until the 2016 Local Government Elections in terms of S139(5) of the Constitution to get the finances back on to a sound footing and to avert the potential cut off of electricity by Eskom.
The DA will ensure that, where we govern, citizens are not disadvantaged by the maladministration and incompetence of municipal officials. We will place the municipality onto a sound financial footing, that can ensure that all residents receive the services to which they are entitled. We cannot continue to allow corruption and malpractice to drive once thriving municipalities into the ground.