Beleaguered Abaqulusi municipality placed under administration

KZN MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Nomusa Dube-Ncube today announced that the Provincial Executive Council has taken decisive action against widespread allegations of mismanagement and nepotism at Abaqulusi local municipality by placing it under administration in terms of section 139(1)(b) of the Constitution.

Today Cogta Head of Department Thando Tubane delivered the message on behalf of MEC Dube-Ncube before the full council.

The drastic decision by the Provincial Executive Council has been triggered by perennial service delivery, financial management and governance deficiencies that are threatening to collapse the Abaqulusi municipality.

“The deteriorating state of governance and financial management at Abaqulusi has left us with no option but to take over some powers in this municipality until we restore full functionality to its governance and administrative structures. The Abaqulusi Council and administration have to date not been able to rescue the municipality from financial distress, governance and organisational challenges which are negatively impacting on service delivery,” said Dube-Ncube.

Chief among the challenges bedeviling Abaqulusi are the revelations that the municipality has an unfunded budget, interferes with recruitment processes and engages in perpetual costly litigations where the financial impact of such litigations has already negatively compromised the financial position of the municipality. The unacceptable use of conditional grants for operational expenses has worsened in Abaqulusi municipality.

“We are concerned about the Council ignoring serious allegations of interference in the administrative affairs by political office bearers, as alleged with an intention to influence the recruitment process in favour of relatives. It is also deeply worrying to observe that this municipality has continuously implemented illegal decisions taken at unlawful meetings and the risk of exposure to serious financial and governance obligations as a result thereof,” said Dube-Ncube.

Abaqulusi municipality is one of the municipalities that are facing a pending switch-off due to an exorbitant debt they owe to Eskom. As at 14 February 2019, Eskom indicated that the municipality was behind with its payments and owed R48.7-million of which R35.12-million was overdue.

“What we see based on evidence before us is a municipality beset with liquidity problems, an unfunded budget, critical vacancies, widespread nepotism and mounting debt to creditors, including Eskom. This indicates an attempt by management to fudge the figures in the budget and the Council’s failure to provide leadership and oversight. All of these failures threaten service delivery to the local communities whom Abaqulusi is meant to serve,” said Dube-Ncube.

“The Budget and Treasury Office (BTO) at Abaqulusi is seriously challenged since the municipality re-employed the current CFO despite indications that the CFO had presided over the depletion of the reserves and did not correctly advise the Council on several key factors. The municipality likewise received a qualified audit opinion for the 2017/2018 financial year,” said Dube-Ncube.

The leadership of Abaqulusi municipality has, in Cogta’s view, failed dismally in ensuring proper governance and sound financial management of municipal assets and resources. The department has exhausted all other avenues and the intervention in terms of Section 139(1)(b) of the Constitution is now the only option left on the table.

“Abaqulusi municipality has to learn that its resources do not exist to sustain a narrow clique of influential councillors, who made a mockery of proper and transparent governance. In recent weeks we were left dumb-founded to witness that the challenges in this municipality have spilled over to the community and are leading to violence and tensions, such as the one in Mondlo community. We have stepped in to ensure that the residents of Abaqulusi come first now and in the future,” said Dube-Ncube.

The MEC will soon announce an administrator to turn around the situation in the Abaqulusi Local Municipality.

For more information contact: KZN Cogta spokesperson Lennox Mabaso, 082 884 2403