The Chris Hani District Municipality’s (CHDM) newly-appointed mayor, Wongama Gela, wants to improve water and sanitation provision to encourage residents to pay for “adequate” services, in order to increase revenue collection.
Gela, who is chairman of the ANC Chris Hani regional executive, was appointed to the position uncontested and unopposed during an ordinary council meeting on Wednesday.
He indicated water and sanitation were two of the issues faced by the municipality that he would make a priority, as residents tended to delay payment for services they only partially received.
“Our main challenge relates to our core function which is water and sanitation provision and infrastructure building. There is a need to continue building infrastructure on the one hand and to provide the related services on the other. The provision side is the most deficient. We want to attend to the expenditure issue in terms of infrastructure in the next financial year, so that we are able to spend money in the required period and ensure the provision of adequate services.”
Gela said he knew people became sceptical and reserved payment if the provision of services they paid for was inconsistent.
“One thing we know for sure is that people will not pay for a service they do not get. When we speak of tariffs, people are not only charged for water and sanitation, but also for the availability of services. We cannot expect people to pay when the service is inconsistent. We want to address that issue and we have clear plans on how to go about it.”
The mayor said the district municipality had a challenge as its budget was mostly funded by grants that came from various government departments which, he said, was not sustainable.
“We need to ensure that we improve on revenue collection, another area of importance. This can be achieved by providing a service the best way possible and constantly reminding people to pay.
However, the municipality has other mandates which include support for local municipalities, like assisting local economic development.”
Gela said in the local economic development matter, the municipality had a plan in place for business people who applied for funding from CHDM.
“We have a different plan, but that will be thoroughly dealt with in the State of the District Address (Soda) towards the end of June, but we aim to continue working with local businesses. We want to equip business owners with human, survival and social skills before we give them money. Instead of giving handouts, we will work on a plan for them to be able to sustain themselves.”
Gela stated another important matter was in relation to the unqualified audit reports the district municipality had received in the past five years.
“We have been stagnant for five years and we want to change course, come the end of the next financial year and we will have improved our audit outcomes. I am more worried with the amended public audit act which speaks to consequence management. Our focus, however, must be on how we can avoid incurring irregular, wasteful and fruitless expenditure.”
Gela elected his mayoral committee as follows: special programmes unit to be headed by Nonzukiso Matiwane, engineering services by Lizeka Tyali, health and community services Noncedo September, integrated planning and economic development (IPED) Sibongile Mbotshane, budget and treasury Mtetunzima Jack and corporate services Siyabulela Nxozi.