Com­par­i­son re­veals need for re­vi­sion

The Herald (South Africa) - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

THIS week’s Her­ald ex­posé of com­par­a­tive mu­nic­i­pal rates can only be the tip of the ice­berg, and fur­ther high­lights the need for a com­plete re­vi­sion of the sys­tem. There are old tru­isms that “a camel is a horse de­signed by a com­mit­tee” and “com­mit­tees of one get things done”.

In the cur­rent mu­nic­i­pal struc­ture, ev­ery rule of good man­age­ment is ig­nored. There is an im­pos­si­bly large coun­cil (the board of the en­ter­prise) whose only func­tion is to guide pol­icy and over­see in­tegrity, but some of whose mem­bers now in­ter­fere in line man­age­ment to achieve their own ob­jec­tives, of­ten with crim­i­nal in­tent, and, worst of all, with ap­par­ent im­punity.

This kind of dis­rup­tion can only de­stroy staff morale and ini­tia­tive while se­verely in­creas­ing costs and lim­it­ing ser­vice de­liv­ery.

Within departments, it seems that no de­ci­sions can be taken by their heads even on small mat­ters, such as writ­ing off a 14-year-old R3.50 li­brary debt to a per­son now of un­known address. Just the monthly in­voice for this pit­tance ex­ceeds the orig­i­nal value of the fine. This in spite of be­ing ad­vised.

On larger mat­ters, we are in­formed that the ANC-led coun­cil in­curred R87-mil­lion in costs to do the last val­u­a­tion, while the DA-led coun­cil man­aged to do the job for R12-mil­lion. While our new coun­cil lead­ers have im­proved the num­bers, I would sug­gest that both fig­ures are ex­ces­sive if they are “add on”, since the town plan­ning de­part­ment should be run­ning up-to-the-minute analy­ses of mar­ket in­for­ma­tion in the course of nor­mal busi­ness.

A ta­ble of com­par­i­son of rates is mean­ing­less with­out ref­er­ence to pop­u­la­tion num­bers, staffing lev­els and each de­part­ment’s ex­pen­di­ture de­tail to iden­tify per­for­mance dis­par­i­ties in those listed.

Rev­enue sources need also to be com­pared for the same rea­son, be­cause there must be lessons to be learned from those mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties that en­tice busi­ness and home­own­ers to in­vest in their cities.

The ex­ist­ing sta­tus here is stalling the econ­omy, as ev­i­denced by empty commercial build­ings, stran­gled thor­ough­fares and low val­ues achieved in prop­erty sales.

Valdy Jensen, Port El­iz­a­beth

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