The local Sherriff again attached furniture and vehicles of the Gariep Municipality on Friday, 7 September after pension payments from employees that should have been paid over the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) were not done. The chaos in this municipality continues despite a visit by the Premier, Noxolo Kiviet, to the area a week ago.
With on-going weekly attachments of municipal assets it is clear this municipality is in in dire financial straits and needs urgent provincial intervention.
The Gariep Municipality is bankrupt! The Municipal Manager must be sacked forthwith.
I have written to the MEC for Local Government, Mlibo Qoboshiyane, to ask him to invoke Section 139 of the Constitution. This provision allows for a provincial government to take over the affairs of a financially ailing municipality.
In addition, my colleague in parliament, Annette Steyn, has written to the Public Protector for an investigation.
Furthermore, I will be asking the MEC why he has been slow in implementing emergency measures to rectify this municipality and why an existing forensic report has not been made available to the Provincial Legislature.
Due to the seriousness of the issue I have written to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Local Government, asking him to convene a committee visit to Gariep to investigate this issue.
The lack of decisive political intervention from the Premier, the MEC and his department has contributed to this latest financial crisis.
Gariep is a poor municipality with 65% of their residents being indigent.
This poses challenges for charging and collecting adequate revenue for municipal services. However, gross mismanagement by the municipal administration has exacerbated the problem.
It is inhumane and unfair that the poorest and vulnerable citizens of Gariep have to go without services due to appalling mismanagement of council monies by the Municipal Manager and financial officers.
By so doing, these vulnerable folk remain in the quagmire of poverty and squalor instead of being given opportunity to live dignified lives by the supply of efficient municipal services.
I am informed that the latest spate of “attachments” this week from the Sherriff is because pension monies deducted from staff wages have not been paid over to Samwu.
Two weeks ago municipal vehicles were attached due to non-payments while a company who recently supplied computers to the municipality has also not been paid.
Previous problems in Gariep include last year when an amount of R2, 5 million was owed to Tension Overhead Electrical for electricity purchases it was unable to service.
An overdraft award of R7, 5 million from ABSA when council agreed only to R2 million is another past financial blunder of this municipality.
Council wanted to borrow a further R20 million and council was not informed as to the implications this would have on rates and taxes.
The only way to solve the problems of Gariep Municipality is to ensure that a capable and competent Municipal Manager and staff are seconded to stabilise this sinking ship until a turnaround rescue plan can be put in place.
The Democratic Alliance will play a vigilant and enabling role to ensure that Gariep Municipality is placed back on a sound financial position.
Dacre Haddon, MPL