THE Lukhanji Municipality’s budget for the 2016-17 financial year did not meet the purpose of a budget which was to design and implement a financial plan for the optimal utilisation of the municipality’s financial and other resources to the benefit of its residents.
So said DA caucus leader Chris de Wet in reaction to the budget tabled by mayor Nozi Makanda last week.
De Wet said analysis of the operating budget revealed Lukhanji had budgeted for an income of R218-million from electricity sales against the purchase of electricity at R203-million, with the writing-off of bad debts relating to electricity calculated at R21-million.
“The nett result is that the municipality will actually lose R6- million on electricity sales in (this) financial year. If electricity sales are deducted from the operating income, the actual income equates to about R395-million, of which R178-million is spent on salaries alone. This represents 45% of the operating budget, by far the biggest expenditure item.”
De Wet said if not for the annual government grants of R122- million, Lukhanji would be bankrupt within a year or two. “When the mayor admits the municipality is under severe financial pressure, the ANC-led council does not bat an eyelid at voting to purchase a vehicle for the speaker at R1-million.”
The DA maintained purchasing a vehicle for the speaker was unnecessary.
“Or a suitable vehicle could be purchased for a far smaller amount. The mayor could not explain a budget of R1,7 million for three LDVs (bakkies), when they should collectively cost no more than R900000.”
The capital budget and funds allocated in the operating budget fell far short in terms of addressing the dire need to repair and improve the ailing infrastructure.
The almost daily power outages experienced in Lukhanji were a continuous reminder of the ticking time-bomb regarding the total collapse of the electrical grid, he warned.
The situation for the long-term survival and prosperity of Lukhanji was the creation of sustainable employment which could only be created through more investment from commerce and business.
“In order to attract such investment on a large scale, Lukhanji needs to be a vibrant municipality with world-class facilities and services. This could only be attained by the effective allocation of resources and maximum output from municipal staff. Sadly, both are presently lacking.”
The DA welcomed the allocation of funding towards the improvement of infrastructure in communities, but such funding was a drop in the ocean compared with the extent of the needs.
He said if the available financial resources were not spent effectively and timeously, the community, especially the poorest therein, were the ones who would suffer the most.
“The key will be to drastically curb the unacceptably high level of spending in the operational budget in order to free up much needed funds to spend on capital projects, maintenance and improvements. Sadly, the ANC has once again let slip an opportunity.”
Mfundo Siyo of the PAC said ANC-led municipalities were only making promises.
He said he had never heard of a council meeting in Sada and that this was an exercise to collect votes.
“Issues of poverty and unemployment were not addressed, there is a lot the budget did not touch on.
“Of course there are things we can congratulate. However nothing is going to happen after the elections – as is the norm.”
Siyo questioned drafting a budget as Tsolwana, Inkwanca and Lukhanji were going to merge to form Enoch Mgijima Municipality after the August polls.
UDM councillor Mthuthuzeli Hokolo said his party was disappointed with the budget as R1-million would be spent on a car for one person, considering how poor service delivery was in Lukhanji. He said there was a need for housing and that money could have been used to build houses for the poor. “There are virtually no streets, but the little money there is is given to one person. What we need to know is that municipal money is for service delivery,” Hokolo said.
He said government money was not for the opulent life, adding he could not understand why ANC councillors supported that. He said Makanda spoke about the housing commission while she knew it was not working.
He said the commission was not given resources besides an office. Hokolo said people in ward 18 lived in houses without a sewer system and at some houses in the New Vale area sewage was coming out of the sinks.