We should expect better

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IT has become so normal for Ndlambe Municipality to receive a qualified audit report – as opposed to the years it received a disclaimer or adverse opinion – that it is easy to accept it as business as usual rather than with utter dismay.

“Qualified” by itself sounds fairly benign, not bad even, but the devil is in the details of all the irregularities identified by the Auditor General, from ongoing non-compliance with legislation to the millions lost to water leaks and electricity theft, or people simply not paying their bills.

In addition to the litany of wrongs listed in the front page story, Ndlambe’s own annual financial statements mention some items of which the public should be aware, or at least reminded about.

Ten years after laptops for councillors were ordered and paid for to the tune of R119 058, but which never materialised, the municipality still lists it as “recoverable fruitless and wasteful expenditure”.

According to the annual report, former municipal manager George Ngesi acknowledged the debt – he signed for delivery of the laptops – and the amount is “refundable” from Ngesi. So why after all this time has he still not paid? Why has the municipality not pursued this debt, knowing how desperately it needs every last cent owed to it?

Another troubling entry in the annual report is “contingent liabilities”, which lists all the litigation against the municipality which is either pending or resolved by the courts.

They include a defamation suit by the estate of a deceased ANC councillor, Thembile Bethe, for R1-million – although outflow was considered unlikely due to his death; a long-standing claim by a property owner in Cannon Rocks who sued Ndlambe for R800 000 as he has been unable to access his land due to moving sand dunes which cover the road; a company called Ndanza Pty (Ltd) which filed suit against the municipality to reinstitute tender processes.

A more recent case is the one brought by John Campbell and Mark Shelton against the sale and proposed development of erf 361 in Pascoe Crescent. The high court ruled in Campbell and Shelton’s favour, and a costs order was made against the municipality.

Then there is the Kenton-on-Sea Ratepayers Association’s lawsuit which it won against Ndlambe, compelling the municipality to rectify the Marselle landfill site – Ndlambe’s solution was to close the site – and a property maintain a sewage pump station to prevent spills.

The most recent of all is the case of a landowner in Alexandria who sued the municipality regarding encroachment on his farmland by the municipal dump.

For many of these the financial effects could not be estimated.

– Jon Houzet

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