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Drinking water down the drain

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It is believed the reason for this is that municipal employees at the city's waterworks department are participating in an informal strike.

NO WORK: Burst pipes are left unattended due to an apparent informal strike by employees at the citys waterworks department. Picture: Danie van der Lith

AN APPARENT informal strike by several Sol Plaatje municipal employees at the city’s waterworks department has resulted in thousands of litres of clean water flowing into the stormwater network as burst pipes are left unattended for weeks on end.

A local resident, who owns a business in Warren Street, said yesterday that there was a broken water pipe resulting in water pouring into the road for almost three weeks already.

“The water, which is bubbling out of the ground, is flowing in a steady stream as far as the Boshof road.”

According to the resident, he has reported the burst pipe to the municipality on numerous occasions but was initially told that the staff at the waterworks section were on strike. On another occasion, he was informed that the foreman was out, while he was also told to report the matter at the City Hall.

Municipal spokesperson Sello Matsie confirmed yesterday that there were challenges at the waterworks department, adding that these would be receiving attention. He did not elaborate further on enquiries about whether staff members were on strike, how many were involved in the strike action and whether it was a legal strike.

“What should be made very clear is that no employee may be on strike without following procedures and the principle of no work no pay will be applied and disciplinary processes may be instituted,” said Matsie.

It is believed that the staff are unhappy about the overtime issue after the new acting municipal manager and acting CFO clamped down on overtime claims.

Requests for comment on whether a management decision was made to strictly implement the overtime policy in terms of the national regulations after it was discovered that staff members were claiming for overtime not due to them, was also not responded to by the municipality.

There was also no indication whether any staff members had been charged for claiming overtime not due to them and if not, why.

“With regard to the issue of overtime, the current financial situation of the municipality has been made quite clear and management will be meeting with staff members to explain the dire situation. We will be emphasising two things, improving our work and explaining that there is a threshold on the amount of time an employee may work,” Matsie stated following requests for comment.

He pointed out that the average number of burst pipes reported on a daily basis was around five per day. “Priority is given to major pipe bursts while others also receive attention.”

Matsie stated that the issue of water losses was concerning and would form part of the municipality’s overall strategy on improving services.

In the last financial year, the Sol Plaatje Municipality spent more than R19 million on overtime, according to an internal audit report on overtime at the municipality.

According to the report, the approved budget for the 2018/19 financial year was R13.762 million, while R19.033 million was spent – an over-expenditure of R5.271 million.

It was pointed out in the report that there was an absence of an approved overtime policy, while the manual procedure contributed to the mismanagement of overtime.

Gaps identified by the audit committee included the fact that officials did not specify the dates worked but were still remunerated, supervisors signed as both supervisor and manager, there was a duplication of hours, the overtime forms did not specify between normal overtime or emergency overtime, and officials worked an excessive number of overtime hours consecutively, without adequate off-duty rest periods.

“A risk of false claims for overtime exists, as we could not be provided with reasons for excessive overtime,” the report states.