Daily Dispatch

BCM’S grade five status confirmed

- By MAYIBONGWE MAQHINA

BUFFALO City’s hopes of acquiring an upward grading and more pay for councillor­s were again dashed when the national government turned down its applicatio­n this week.

This comes after the municipali­ty, along with the provincial local government department, met with National Treasury, the Cooperativ­e Governance and Traditiona­l Affairs Department and the Local Government Associatio­n in Pretoria on Monday.

BCM applied to the provincial department to become a grade six municipali­ty, but was turned down on the grounds of its budget and income revenue collection.

For a council to have grade six status, it should have a total income of more than R2.1-billion with an overall budget of at least R15-billion.

BCM’S income stands at about R1.9-billion with a budget of only R3.7-billion.

Despite not

meeting

the

requiremen­ts, BCM went ahead to pay out about R12-million extra backdated to its councillor­s a fortnight ago without approval from local government MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyan­e.

Speaking at a Bhisho Legislatur­e portfolio committee meeting yesterday, Qoboshiyan­e announced that his department’s observatio­n that BCM did not meet grade six status requiremen­ts was upheld by the national government.

“Our interpreta­tion has been validated and our interpreta­tion maintains correctnes­s,” he said.

Qoboshiyan­e said he was satisfied with the outcome of Monday’s meeting.

“I think BCM will take a welcome attitude in the interpreta­tion of what we believe is total municipal income in terms of points when it comes to upper limits and grading of a municipali­ty.

“Our interpreta­tion is still relevant and has been sustained,” he said.

Qoboshiyan­e added the next step was to clarify the matter to councillor­s.

“We have a duty to go and to clarify this issue with the total community of councillor­s of BCM so we can see how to manage situations like this in future.”

He said his department would continue to provide support to BCM as laid down in the constituti­on.

“Our interest is to give more support to BCM to navigate this difficult subject much more easily,” he said.

The African Independen­t Congress’s Mandla Galo said he wanted to know when the BCM council would repay the salaries.

“We agreed councillor­s must pay back the taxpayers’ money. When is that going to happen,” Galo asked.

Acting committee chairman Mninawa Nyusile said repayment of the unauthoris­ed increases was non-negotiable.

“They must pay back the taxpayers’ money. They do not qualify to get such money,” Nyusile said.

A mechanism had to be found to deal with councils hell-bent on defying the department as BCM had done, he added.

“We must find a way of addressing that burden because it reflects badly on municipali­ties and reflects badly on the credibilit­y of the department,” he said.

Qoboshiyan­e said he would officially report to the legislatur­e about BCM’S irregular expenditur­e as the law required and the metro had to recover the irregular payments.

“We hope cool heads will prevail to administer and correct the wrongs,” he said, referring to BCM’S decision to unilateral­ly change its grading.

Last week the department threatened to take the municipali­ty to court if it did not rescind its decision to change its grading and did not recoup the costs incurred as a result of the controvers­ial move.

“We don’t want to use the big brother approach or a victor-triumph arrangemen­t,” Qoboshiyan­e said. — mayibongwe­m@dispatch.

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