A MSUNDUZI Municipality employee was absent from work between December 2016 until the end of 2019, but still managed to rake in a salary throughout the period.
This was revealed by the auditor-general when the municipality’s top brass appeared before Parliament’s co-operative governance and traditional affairs portfolio committee yesterday.
The information comes as part of a follow-up on progress by the municipality since it was placed under administration in 2019. Committee members believe what was uncovered by the AG’s office is a fraction of the problems at the municipality.
Treasury’s Kavitha Ruplal told committee members the municipality had approached the office for assistance with its budgeting. “We are now in the process of revising their financial recovery plan.”
Committee member Cilliers Brink described the situation in the municipality as depressing, pointing to crumbling infrastructure in central Pietermaritzburg.
“What is saddening is that this is the capital city of KwaZulu-Natal and the question is if the capital looks like this what about other cities and municipalities?”
He called for the municipality to be taken over completely by either provincial or national government, insisting that things had continued to fall apart despite assurances from the leadership.
He noted the unqualified audit report and having a budget that was funded as the only positives that had emerged in recent years.
Another committee member, Xolani Msimango, questioned whether any lessons had been learnt, noting how Msunduzi seemed to hop from one crisis to another over the years.
This was in reference to the fact that the municipality had been put under administration in 2010 and recovered briefly, only for it to be placed under administration again in 2019.
“What needs to be done in order for you to get out of this quagmire, because nothing seems to be going right,” said Msimango.
He warned of anger from residents who were expecting services, questioning whether municipal officials were made to account for the problems.
Msimango expressed concerns over revelations from the AG’s office about an employee who had been paid while not reporting for duty.
“The question is how many such cases exist? There is not even one person that has been held accountable over the matter. Surely somebody needs to be held accountable.”
Gcinikhaya Mpumza, another committee member, questioned the commitment from the city’s leadership to get the municipality back on track.
He also raised concerns about the municipality’s salary bill, especially after the discovery of the ghost employee.
Other concerns raised included:
- Low expenditure on infrastructure.
- Non-functional ward committees.
- Complaints about constant power outages.
Msunduzi mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla said while there were challenges in delivering some of the services, things had improved immensely since they assumed office in 2019. He listed potholes that had been attended to and street lights that had been fixed as an illustration of the effort being made.