Just ‘collegial advice’, not interference
It is hard to imagine that “collegial advice” reminding the municipality of the law could be considered interference in the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality.
This was the response from the National Treasury to claims by ANC councillor Andile Lungisa that there was a “rogue unit” operating within the department that was interfering in the affairs of the city.
It comes after Lungisa said he would write to finance minister Tito Mboweni to report what he felt was the undermining of the metro after Treasury deputy director-general for intergovernmental relations Malijeng Ngqaleni cautioned the city on Wednesday against spending loan funding on anything other than capital projects.
The letter was sent to acting city manager Peter Neilson less than 24 hours after a plan was presented to the council to divert hundreds of millions in loan funding meant for infrastructure towards settling legal bills and summer festivities.
The Treasury’s media unit said Mboweni would gladly receive any evidence of a rogue unit, but also noted that such a unit did not exist.
The Treasury said it was advised that the metro was considering a diversion of debt financing for purposes that were specifically not authorised in the Municipal Finance Management Act, and that had not been disclosed during the negotiations for the loan.
“In reviewing the evidence, in this case a council memorandum, the Treasury immediately sought to advise and caution the accounting officer of the legal issues that would need to be considered before any action was taken in this regard.
“The advice was offered in the spirit of co-operative governance, with an offer to provide subsequent support to the municipality and council should they be unfamiliar with the regulatory environment.
“It is hard to imagine why collegial advice of this nature would be considered to be interference, or why it would be necessary to label the national Treasury or its intergovernmental relations division as a ‘rogue’ unit, when these are clearly within its responsibilities.”
The media unit said the Treasury had always had a close working relationship with the metro.
“The recent changes to the political administration of the metro have led to a situation where not all in the political leadership have been fully exposed to training and orientation in the legal framework governing municipalities and a significant number of vacancies exist in senior municipal management positions, including the city manager and chief financial officer.
“In cases where the national Treasury becomes aware of potential contraventions of the law, it will always take measures to quickly, honestly and clearly offer guidance and support to municipalities.”
Asked if he had written to the Treasury yet, Lungisa said he would do so on Friday afternoon.
ROGUE CLAIMS: ANC councillor Andile Lungisa