GRAAFF-REINET POLITICAL NEWS - DA Member of Parliament Samantha Graham-Maré participated in a meeting with the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs last week where the Sarah Baartman District Municipality (SBDM) was delivering a presentation to local municipalities under its ambit.
The meeting included a discussion on the Dr Beyers Naude Local Municipality (DBNLM) and Graham-Maré was invited to ask questions. She also used the opportunity to raise some critical issues.
Graham-Maré questioned the highly contentious amalgamation of the former Camdeboo, Baviaans and Ikwezi local municipalities.
She said the DBNLM is a classical example of a demarcation gone wrong and mentioned that she submitted a substantial report on why the amalgamation should not go ahead at the time when she spearheaded the DA's opposition to the amalgamation.
The Demarcation Board followed up with their own private independent study, conducted by Baker & Associates, and issued an 84-page report containing a great deal of what she has submitted.
In the final declaration at the end of their report, they proposed that the amalgamation should not go ahead but, subsequently, in contravention of their own report, they decided to request that the amalgamation should proceed.
According to Graham-Maré the municipality was then issued with a R20-million amalgamation grant which was supposed to assist in the establishment of the new municipality.
In the buildup to the 2016 elections ten workstreams were established but, at the time when the municipality amalgamated, only the financial workstream was functional and nothing else was in place.
"From the outset the DBNLM received very little - including financial - support from provincial and national government and that things have gone from bad to worst in the interim. The DBNLM inherited enormous debt from the Ikwezi municipality as well as litigation matters from the Ikwezi municipality. In addition, the DBNLM inherited an oversupply of staff members and union issues," Graham-Maré said.
Based on these facts Graham-Maré reiterated that the amalgamation should never have gone ahead and wanted to know what the government is going to do to assist the DBNLM in either disestablishing over the next five years or getting the DBNLM functional and onto a sound financial footing.
Graham-Maré also questioned the SBDM's presentation on positions of Municipal Managers and Directors, in particular the claim made by the SBDM that these positions are all in place.
She raised concern that the Acting Chief Financial Officer of the DBNLM was the CFO of the Ikwezi municipality in the midst of the dysfunctionality. "She is unqualified to be a CFO and was subsequently dismissed, but she challenged her dismissal in court and was reinstated on a procedural irregularity at the time of the amalgamation.
"DBNLM inherited her into the staff compliment irrespective of her not being qualified to be a CFO and more than 18 months later she still is in an acting capacity."
Graham-Mare also raised concern around allegations that the Director of Corporate Services does not meet the criteria for the position. "Who's responsibility is it to verify that people in positions are actually qualified to fulfil their functions?"
Regarding the previously reported sexual harassment case, the SBDM mentioned an award in the amount of R12,5-million. "The award in court was for R4-million with costs and, according to what the Municipal Manager told Council, the DBNLM was looking at an amount of R5,5-million for this particular lawsuit.
Graham-Maré questioned the surplus R7-million, but the SBDM were unable to answer.
The DBNLM was not in the meeting and could therefore not respond to the questions. The SBDM was also not in a position to adequately respond but Graham-Maré was advised that the DBNLM will be having a separate meeting with the Portfolio Committee at a later stage where she will be invited to question them again.
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