The Nelson Mandela Bay budget for the next financial year has still not been passed, with the second sitting of the budget meeting being postponed, after last week’s meeting collapsed.
This week’s meeting almost collapsed before it began, as councillors from the African National Congress, Economic Freedom Fighters and United Democratic Movement did not return to the council chamber following an early adjournment to allow them to caucus.
To quorate, the council needs 61 of the 120 councillors to be present. The Democratic Alliance-led coalition only had 59 members in council today, as one of their members Lodewyk Gallant, was not present due to illness.
But, while ANC councillors celebrated outside, saying the meeting had collapsed, council resumed with a quorum of exactly 61 members, as councillor Mkhuseli Mtsila of the United Front and Tshonono Buyeye from the African Independent Congress, returned to council.
Both Mtsila and Buyeye expressed concerns over having received the amended ward-based budgets late and asked for time to consult with their constituents.
They also raised concerns over the legality of the budget being discussed, as the quality certificate had not been signed off by the city manager, Johan Mettler. This issue was also raised last week.
Mayor Athol Trollip asked that the matter of the signature be dealt with once and for all, and Mayoral Committee Member for Budget and Treasury Retief Odendaal then read the regulations as set out by the National Treasury, which stipulated that the signed quality certificate was only needed once the budget had been approved by council.
Buyeye said he was not convinced, as they had consulted with municipal managers from other municipalities.
Trollip then proposed that, either a legal opinion be obtained, or that instructions be obtained from Treasury. Buyeye then indicated that he would prefer a legal opinion.
Speaker Jonathan Lawack then postponed the budget meeting to Tuesday next week, so that the legal opinion could be obtained.
The council then proceeded with the continuation of last month’s general council meeting, which collapsed following a walk-out by the opposition. However, Buyeye left the chamber, followed shortly thereafter by Mtsila, and the meeting again collapsed.
The almost R12bn budget for the 2018/19 financial year has to be passed before the end of June. If the budget is not passed, the City’s administration could effectively grind to a halt, as any funds spent would be unauthorised, and could be deemed fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
In terms of Section 139 of the Constitution, failure to pass the budget would result in the City being placed under administration and the council dissolved.