Litany of woes
Theft, vandalism and abuse of municipal resources
Those buildings have been vandalised and anything of value was taken. There was no security
LACK of security and oversight of Ndlambe Municipality’s infrastructural assets has led to vandalism, theft and abuse of municipal resources.
Among the problems highlighted by a municipal insider is the vandalism at a project at the Port Alfred landfill site that was meant to house a composting facility and nursery, missing fencing at the Port Alfred sewage plant where a security guard was murdered three months ago, rampant theft at the municipal works yard in Port Alfred and lack of tracking on municipal vehicles since a contract ended last year.
The municipality has acknowledged the problems, though it has declined to go into detail in responses to TotT’s questions.
Our source, who asked for anonymity as he is a municipal employee, said he had been dismayed by the lack of controls which had resulted in the destruction and loss of property and even in the death of a security guard.
TotT has previously reported on the lack of adequate security at the R30-million sewage plant, which was dysfunctional for a year after electrical boxes were vandalised and copper cable stolen.
The sewage plant has been targeted by copper cable thieves numerous times over the years, and there were even reports of shots being fired at the facility in previous MultiSecurity incident reports.
Matters came to a head on July 5 when armed robbers stormed the guardhouse at the plant and shot and killed one of the security guards before taking his cellphone, a radio and panic button, and the cellphone of the murdered guard’s colleague. TotT has reported on this incident, which was confirmed by the police.
“Fencing is missing and the guardhouse itself has no electricity. How can they be expected to guard and secure the facility under such circumstances?” our source said. As for the landfill site, he said a grant worth “millions” had been given to the municipality for a composting facility and nursery at the site, in line with national recycling objectives.
“Those buildings have been vandalised and anything of value was taken. There was no security,” our source said.
Security is also a problem at the municipal works yard in Port Alfred, where theft is rampant, according to TotT’s source.
TotT has previously reported on the theft of fuel at the works yard, as reported in the council agendas. Security cameras were vandalised to prevent footage being recorded of the incidents.
“It’s not only fuel that is being stolen. Tyres, batteries and tools have also been stolen – and although there are guards at the front entrance, there is a big opening at the back of the works yard that allows thieves easy access to the facility,” our source continued.
He said he was also stunned when he discovered that none of the municipal vehicles have tracking on them since a contract expired last year.
“Tracking is a management tool which helps curb unauthorised use of vehicles, so there is no accounting for abuse of municipal resources,” he said.
In response to TotT’s queries on the issues, municipal spokesman Cecil Mbolekwa said: “As a municipality we will be advertising a tender for security services for all municipal buildings/assets. We believe that this will minimise losses. When the tender is awarded, it will be the responsibility of bidders to ensure that the guards are in possession of the necessary training, knowledge and equipment.”
He did however add that there already was an appointed security firm at the landfill site, from 6pm to 6am daily, as well as full days on weekends and public holidays.
Mbolekwa attributed the damage to the composting facility to high winds blowing off the roof.
But in another setback to recycling projects at the dump, the plastic recycling facility was burnt down over the weekend due to uncontrolled fires at the dump.
As for the lack of a tracking system on municipal vehicles, Mbolekwa said: “A notice for tenders of tracking systems was advertised in the Daily Dispatch as well as municipal noticeboards and website (Notice number 132/2017). The usual bid process will be followed in terms of the Municipal Supply Chain polices.”
Asked for comment, DA caucus leader and Ward 10 councillor Ray Schenk said all four issues had been discussed in council over a period of time.
“The DA is gravely concerned that the project for composting and the indigenous nursery never took off and that the structures have been vandalised and destroyed by high winds,” Schenk said.
“This is one more case of good money wasted because of poor management of the project. This wasted money could have been better spent on upgrading roads in Nemato. There is no excuse for this project to have failed dismally.
“We do not recommend that this project be resurrected again as it will once more end in failure. The fact that high winds damaged the roof structure, points us to poor design and workmanship.”
He said the issue of security at the sewage works and other municipal infrastructure sites was more complex.
“The DA agrees that greater care should be taken in securing our infrastructure. However, given the cost of security and the limited budget it is a difficult task. At the same time we cannot afford that these sites become targets for thieves and robbers and the directorates will have to come up with plans to secure all infrastructure.
“It is not only the sewer works in Port Alfred that is at risk. Have a look at the East Beach ablution facilities and all other infrastructure sites throughout Ndlambe that are targeted by thieves and vandals.”
As for the municipal works yard, he said the DA had for years been calling for an upgrade of the facility and the “curtailing of shrinkage”, be it fuel or parts.
“The municipality has moved slowly on this and should prioritise it as a matter of urgency. Stricter control mechanisms are required in order to stop the theft of assets,” Schenk said.
“It was a poor decision of the municipality not to have continued with a system of monitoring municipal vehicles. There is no doubt that this has left the control of municipal vehicles open to abuse. As Cecil has indicated, a tender has gone out for a bid process which will take care of that issue.
“As concerning as these issues are, the overarching factor is a limited budget. Having said that, officials should also have implemented stricter control mechanisms in order to reduce the risks.”