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An unusual sandstorm that occurred in rural Apel, just outside Lebowakgomo, during an oversight visit of the Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) is a symbol of the problems clouding the future of Fetakgomo Tubatse Local Municipality and many other municipalities in the province. The committee is visiting Limpopo province to assess the impact of the Venda Mutual Bank investment scandal on service delivery.

The committee said it was unacceptable that municipalities continue to spend money in disciplinary processes against municipal managers and chief finance officers for their roles in the VBS scandal. In Fetakgomo municipality, of the R230 million invested in VBS, R80 million came from the Integrated National Electrification Programme (INEP), which was meant to connect households to the national grid. The direct impact of this is that the programme has been put on hold as the municipality lost the entire amount.

The committee also criticised the slow investigation and disciplining of the supply chain manager, who is accused of fraud for misuse of the petrol card to the tune of R197 000. This is despite the fact that the municipality has a radius of no more than 50-55 km. The committee was informed that council took a resolution in 2017 for the disciplinary process, but little has not been done to proceed with the matter. Furthermore, the municipality informed the committee that this amount is expected to increase when the full investigation is completed.

The problems at Fetakgomo Tubatse were also exacerbated by political instability, arising from the amalgamation of Tubatse and Fetakgomo into one municipality. As a result, since November 2018, ordinary Council only sat on 27 August 2019. In between, council was only convened for special sittings.  

In Elias Motsoaledi Local Municipality the committee decried the fact that the municipality continues to spend money on the disciplinary process of the municipal manager, who is on suspension with full pay. The municipality has spent over R700 000 remunerating this manager while on suspension, and a further R148 379.22 in acting allowance for the acting manager.

“It is particularly regrettable is that the R900 000 is not inclusive of the legal fees the municipality continued to pay to deal with case of the municipal manager. Many municipalities have long dispensed with the matter of the DC process of 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 Ms Faith Muthambi, the Chairperson of the committee.

The committee was infuriated by the fact that the disciplinary process was postponed on 30 April 2019, with no possible next date for the resumption of the process while the MM continues to draw a salary at the end of the month without doing any work.

Regarding economic development, the committee criticised the length municipalities take to pay their creditors. In many municipalities, it is standard to pay creditors after 150 days, which goes against regulation to pay within 30 days of submission of invoices. The impact of this is strained cash flow for businesses, which might lead to closure of these small businesses. This undermines the intention to grow the economy and create job opportunities.

Malatswa Molepo
16 October 2019