MAYOR Danny Jordaan is on a cost-cutting mission, earmarking Nelson Mandela Bay’s growing salary bill and the excessive use of consultants as key areas to slash in order to channel more money to basic services.
More than 25% of the Bay’s operating budget is often spent on salaries, excluding the millions spent every year on consultants hired to do jobs that municipal officials are unable to do.
At a council meeting held at the Uitenhage Indoor Sports Centre on Thursday, Mr Jordaan postponed the adoption of the 2015-16 budget and integrated development plan for further refinement. He stressed the importance of prioritising services and vowed not to table a deficit budget.
The last draft budget, tabled in the council in April, showed an operating budget deficit of R400m. The budget has to be approved by the council before the end of the month as the new financial year starts on July 1.
“I am committed to wiping out deficit budgets, but it will take some hard work on our part.
“We are going to have to cut nonessential items. We have to rein in our spending on personnel — the amount we spend on salaries has been growing steadily as a proportion of our budget, and we need to watch this does not crowd out crucial operating expenditure,” he said.
Last week, while delivering his inaugural speech, Mr Jordaan promised to slash unnecessary spending on overseas trips for officials and local politicians.
On Thursday, he said it was important to prioritise clean water, sanitation, regular waste collection, proper housing, electricity and roads that did not have potholes.
He cited the Nooitgedacht water scheme as essential for the city, but doubted if the metro needed or could afford the Fish Water Flats waste water treatment plant at this stage. The expansion of the plant currently under way is to keep up with Reconstruction and Development Programme housing projects connected to the metro’s sewerage system.
While he was expected to announce his new mayoral committee — the team that will politically head the metro’s municipal departments — Mr Jordaan said he was not ready to do so yet.
He first had to fully understand the nature of the problems plaguing the city, he said.
Last week Mr Jordaan announced that a team of national and provincial officials from the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs would intervene in the city to root out inefficiencies in the administration.
He elaborated on Thursday that the intervention team would be in the Bay for six months to help turn the city around.
Opposition parties commended Mr Jordaan for his stance on turning the tide in the city and for wanting to work with them.