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Sol still in limbo

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The city is also facing a massive projected income shortfall after it was forced, following unprecedented service delivery protests in the city, to drop a R260 basic levy on electricity

Picture: Supplied

ALMOST six months since the suspension on full pay of the Sol Plaatje Municipal Manager and Chief Financial Officer, city residents are still coughing up millions of rands each month for their salaries.

The municipal manager, Goolam Akharwaray, and CFO Lydia Mahloko, were suspended in July last year on full-pay and a Section 106 investigation was launched by the Northern Cape Department of Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs (Coghsta) to investigate a wide range of issues at Sol Plaatje Municipality, including the alleged mismanagement of municipal funds and the appointment of a public relations company to promote the municipality’s ill-fated R260 basic electricity levy.

The report was leaked to the media at the beginning of November but has still not been discussed by the Sol Plaatje City Council after Mahloko approached the Northern Cape High Court to have the report set aside.

An interim interdict was granted in chambers in the Northern Cape High Court at the end of November to prevent any steps from being taken with regard to the recommendations of the Section 106 investigation.

According to Mahloko’s legal representative, Advocate Maisa Jeremiah Merabe from Bloemfontein, the application sought to have the Section 106 investigation report declared null and void. Acting Judge Sieberhagen postponed the matter until this year.

After coming to a virtual standstill, the city council appointed a new mayor, Patrick Mabilo, at the end of November.

However, activities of the council have still not got underway, with Mabilo still not having appointed his mayoral committee. Members of the mayoral committee, who are appointed on a full-time basis, traditionally chair the council’s various committees. These committees cannot meet until the mayor has elected the chairpersons.

While an informal council meeting is scheduled for next week, the councillors will only meet to discuss the annual report, which, in terms of legislative requirements, needs to be approved before the end of this month. Mabilo will need to call a special council meeting to announce the appointment of his mayoral committee.

Meanwhile, on the administration side, it has also been a slow start to the new year.

The appointment of the municipal manager, Ruth Sebolecwe, to act in Akharwaray’s position, expires soon and will have to be renewed.

This is expected to be done when council meets next month.

In the finance section, there is also a void after Advocate Andries Klopper, who at one stage was acting CFO, resigned.

Municipal spokesperson, Sello Matsie, confirmed yesterday that Klopper had resigned to take up a post in Port Elizabeth.

“Klopper has tendered his resignation, therefore his last working day will be January 31 2019. He is currently on sick leave, hence in his absence there is an acting CFO who has been appointed for the duration of his sick leave.”

As the incoming executive mayor, Mabilo will have his hands full in trying to restore public confidence in the municipality, which after three years of receiving an unqualified audit from the Auditor-General, last year regressed to a qualified opinion.

According to a presentation, the basis for the qualified opinion included the fact that the municipality did not maintain adequate records of land and buildings under its control, did not maintain adequate and complete records of services rendered and failed to recognise its water losses.

The city is also facing a massive projected income shortfall after it was forced, following unprecedented service delivery protests in the city, to drop a R260 basic levy on electricity.

This has resulted in a projected shortfall on its budget of around R150 million resulting in several capital expenditure projects having to be cut.

Matsie gave the assurance yesterday that the announcement of the members of the mayoral committee was being finalised and was currently at a political level. “The executive will ensure that the best candidates, who are competent in the performing of the task ahead, will be selected.”

He added that committee meetings would resume soon and would deal with any backlogs.

“The executive mayor is focused on issues like the cleaning of the city and the financial strategy. He met with the staff before the festive season and outlined his commitment to all sections but also pointed out that he expected their commitment in return, especially in areas like work ethics, so that the community will be ensured of value for money.”

Matsie said more details would be released during the mayor’s start of the year address to council next month.