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Salga advises Sol to rescind acting MM appointment


The SA Local Government Association has advised Sol Plaatje Municipality to review or rescind the appointment of the acting municipal manager, Lydia Thekisho, as she is also the chief financial officer.

The Salga national executive committee engaged with Nortehrn Cape municipalities with regards to issues faced by local government that require immediate attention. Picture: Soraya Crowie

THE SOUTH African Local Government Association (Salga) has advised Sol Plaatje Municipality to review or rescind the appointment of the acting municipal manager, Lydia Thekisho, as she is also the chief financial officer (CFO).

During an engagement between the Salga national executive committee (NEC) and municipalities in the Northern Cape this week, it was pointed out that this could create more trouble for the municipality.

“It is not palatable for a CFO to act as an accounting officer. The NEC must engage and persuade the municipality as it can plunge the municipality into deeper problems if the appointment is not reviewed or rescinded.

“It takes away the checks and balances as the role of the CFO, amongst other things, is to advise the accounting officer.”

Salga NEC president Bheke Stofile pointed out that the CFO was responsible for advising council on issues of finance.

“Once a CFO is appointed as an acting municipal manager, it is possible to lose serious oversight. We are a responsible organisation that operates within the boundaries of the law. There is a general concern from the public that municipal practitioners undermine the provision of legislation and, in the public view, steal money. You cannot oversee the money that you have stolen. Let us avoid these perceptions and prevent risking putting the sector at the crossroads. We need to redeem the bad things that happened over the years.

“In the hierarchy of accountability, the mayor plays an oversight role over the administration and the key of the administration is the accounting officer. The reason for developing an IDP (integrated development plan) is to prevent the public from perceiving that local government is a failed or useless institution.”

Sol Plaatje Municipality was also requested to elaborate on claims by Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter that they were charging a 121 percent mark-up on the sale of electricity.

Thekisho hit back at De Ruyter and accused him of trying to deflect attention away from the electricity crisis by claiming that the municipality was charging a 121 percentage mark-up.

“We should be disturbed by such claims. People don’t read the details. They need to understand the pricing of the municipality and how Eskom bills municipalities on the consumption.

“Whenever these claims are made, Sol Plaatje Municipality is not represented or given an opportunity to respond. These pronouncements are made on the golf course. During the interview, De Ruyter was responding to the issues of blackouts and load shedding. Out of the blue, he brought up Sol Plaatje Municipality where the municipality and politicians were dragged into the conversation.”

She added that while the country was plunged into Stage 2 load shedding once more this week, De Ruyter had accused politicians of “carrying Louis Vuitton bags”.

“He mentioned that he was not able to give such gifts to his wife as a present while he is earning a R7 million salary.”

Thekisho stated that the municipality had based the electricity tariffs on a cost of supply study.

“We are awaiting the outcome of the National Energy Regulator of South Africa on our submissions that are in line with the pricing regulations.”

She, however, admitted that the municipality was “financially distressed”.

“We want to voluntarily place Sol Plaatje under section 139 to seek assistance from national and provincial government to strengthen the capacity of the municipality.

“We don’t want to wait until it is too late.”

Thekisho added that National Treasury had expressed confidence in the “stable political leadership” of Sol Plaatje Municipality.

She acknowledged that time constraints prevented her from focusing on the turnaround strategy as she was the CFO as well as the acting municipal manager.

“Our worst enemy is water and electricity losses, We are a stagnant city where decisions for growth are stymied in the absence of a growth and development strategy, which the budget could not fund.”

Thekisho stated that the status of the project depended on funds from the Development Bank of South Africa.

“In order to be effective, the growth and development strategy cannot rely on donations.”

She pointed out that out of a total of 72,000 ratepayers in the city only 400 were commercial entities, including government departments.

“The revenue base is resident 52 percent where there are 32,000 indigent households that cannot afford to pay for municipal services.

“The municipality is viable, there is not a problem with money, the problem is the impact on the economy on the livelihoods of people affected by the high cost of living or as a result of losing their jobs.”

Thekisho pointed out that the last IDP meeting was held before the local government elections in 2021, after which the function of committees was stopped to allow councillors to embark on the election programme.

“An assessment was made of the budget and challenges were foreseen with the IDP process as advice was needed from National Treasury. We will try our best to present a revised IDP budget that will be tabled along with the budget that was expected to be tabled on March 31. The amended and revised IDP has been proposed to be adopted at a council meeting on June 29.”

She explained the public participation process had not been finalised yet.

“As much as the IDP is a priority, the municipality does not need it to deliver services. There are dire consequences if the budget is not approved.”

Salga chief officer of municipal finance Khomotso Letsatsi said they would lobby for funding for municipalities in the Province from National Treasury to improve service delivery and infrastructure.

Salga chief officer of municipal finance, Khomotso Letsatsi. Picture: Soraya Crowie
Sol Plaatje Municipality CFO and acting Municipal manager Lydia Thekisho. Picture: Soraya Crowie
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