Ratepayers infuriated by Ndlambe’s adjustments
FOLLOWING months of to-and-froing on the Ndlambe annual budget, the gloves are off, with both the Ndlambe Ratepayers Forum and the Port Alfred Residents and Ratepayers Association claiming foul. The municipal budget was tabled and approved by council on March 31, within the 90-day period stipulated in the Municipal Financial Management Act, and made available for public comment. The tabled budget included a R100-million deficit.
“How is the public expected to comment on a budget where cuts would have to be made to balance the budget? This tabled budget also set the property rates increase at 6.4%,” NRF chairman Chis Bezuidenhout said.
The NRF met with Ndlambe finance director Michael Klaas for an update on the budget in mid-May and were told that in order to reduce the deficit, the rates increase would be 9% and the rates rebate reduced from 14% to 12%.
“This was unacceptable to the NRF because a 9% rates increase is above Treasury recommendation and the proposed 2% reduction in the rates rebate was also rejected,” Bezuidenhout said, adding that this would be unaffordable for many elderly pensioners or residents on fixed incomes and that a 9% increase would have to be re-published for public comment, which could delay the final approval of the budget. However, the deadline for submission of the budget to province has passed.
The NRF proposed that if small cuts were made from budgeted expenditure on some line items this could relate to a decrease of property rates from 9% to 7%.
Bezuidenhout said the salary/labour cost ratio to expenditure was 40%, which was way above the norm of 35%.
He went on to say that cuts could be made in the payment of overtime (budgeted at R5.8-million), on casual labour (budgeted at R3.8-million) and the local economic development (LED) expenditure (budgeted at R5.3-million).
Bezuidenhout also pointed out budgeted items such as uniforms at R1.8-million, computers set at R4.5-million, catering services budgeted at R1.2-million, as well as travel and subsistence set at R4.1-million.
He said a written proposal to this effect had been submitted to Ndlambe mayor Phindile Faxi in June but that, to date, the NRF had received no response.
On the subject of catering, Parra chairman Dawie van Wyk was incredulous. “The catering services come to a total of R951 490.33,” he said.
“Catering for the mayor is budgeted at R271500 and that for the municipal manager [Rolly Dumezweni], R273502.33.”
Van Wyk went on to state figures he believes are unacceptable; the cost of casuals in the adjusted budget at R2516 255, a variance of R1286 567 on the tabled budget of R1 286 567, or a 95.58% increase.
As for overtime, the adjusted budget stands at R5 768 001.30 from its original figure of R2 562 069, a variance of R3 205 932.30 or a 125.13% increase.
”The ratepayers of Ndlambe are being totally ignored,” an angry Van Wyk said.
“The municipality agreed during the budget period to reduce overtime and casuals significantly, which they did. Now all they do is put vast variances into the adjustment budget. The ratepayers feel this is extremely underhand[ed]. Why agree to reduce the initial budget for casuals and overtime only to increase it again in the adjustment budget?”
The same argument was expressed by Bezuidenhout: “Disregard for ratepayers is clearly illustrated, that when the budget was finally approved by council the impact and affordability of the rates tariff increase, well above guidelines by Treasury, was not even debated.
“Once again the ratepayers are asked to ‘bite the bullet’ and accept this increase. The NRF was led to believe in its meeting with officials that further cuts in expenditure can affect delivery of services.
“[Yet,] although delivery of some services could be affected, ratepayers pay separately for essential services such as water, refuse removal, sanitation and electricity,” he said.
Bezuidenhout asked if the municipality had considered service delivery when they approved wasting R200 000 on purchasing laptops for councillors, spending R750000 to purchase a vehicle for mayoral use, while at the same time cutting the amount budgeted for plant and equipment from R177000 to just R36 000.
He pointed out that subsistence and travelling expense for two councillors to accompany the municipal manager and the infrastructure director to Germany on the German Government sponsored Eco village project in Kenton-on-Sea were not approved by council before embarking on the trip.
“And why are we paying Ward committee members R700 per meeting?” Bezuidenhout asked.