Paying for poor budgeting

JUST like hearings on the Expropriation Bill, which has been passed by parliament, Ndlambe Municipality’s budget imbizos seems to be a waste of time with the outcome already decided by the ruling party.

Year after year, finance director Howard Dredge presents the already heavily burdened ratepayers with an appallingly high proposed rates hike of around 17 or 18%, and then we are supposed to feel relieved when it is trimmed down to 11%.

Just as Dredge warned, the rates increase remained in double digits, which he called “realistic”, explaining that going any lower would have a negative impact on service delivery.

Makana Municipality, which is in a much worse state than Ndlambe, has somehow managed to keep its rates increase to 9%.

Recently on our Facebook pages an apologist for Ndlambe’s bedevilled infrastructure directorate suggested residents, and TotT, were being unfairly critical of director Noluthando Vithi because she is black, while sparing Dredge from similar criticism, even though as the apologist pointed out, Dredge has never managed to get a clean audit for the municipality.

The execrable racist inference aside, we think Dredge himself would differ, considering all the publicity TotT has afforded the auditor general’s report each year, and the complete lack of follow-through by the municipality, so that the same problems keep reappearing.

Also, Dredge does not operate in a vacuum, a law unto himself, but has to work with the budgets of all the other directorates, including their irregular and inexplicable expenditure, from questionable copier machine contracts to excessive use of petty cash.

And beyond that, Dredge is beholden to the ruling party, who gave him his job. Despite its overtures of doing away with deployment of incompetent cadres, does anyone seriously believe ANC-run municipalities do not appoint their own people, from the top-ranking officials to the general workers?

These political appointments have been a constant refrain in protests around Ndlambe about the employment database.

Returning to the increase in rates and other service charges, water is going up staggering 16%. Considering all the expenditure on Amatola Water projects – which has yet to bring us potable tapwater – this is not surprising.

All of these increases are becoming unaffordable to the people who actually pay for their services, especially pensioners on fixed incomes. The municipality has never conducted a means test to see how it affects people they consider milch cows.

And though there is always a voice crying in the wilderness that public servants should tighten their own belts and stop adding to their already extravagant salaries, ANC officials put their fingers in their ears.

– Jon Houzet

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