Kouga’s top team to handle residents grievances

Kouga Municipality’s new  top team will tackle challenges, but residents need to honour their obligations as well.

This is the assurance of Kouga Executive Mayor Booi Koerat, who also called on residents to honour their responsibility towards the municipality so that quality services could be delivered.

This was said in a municipal statement delivered to the press today.  The release said Kouga residents’grievances submitted at at two recent marches are being addressed as a matter of urgency.  

Kouga’s new team of directors, headed by Municipal Manager Sidney Fadi, are Carleen Arends (Tourism, Creative Industries and Local Economic Development), Carlien Burger (Finance), Victor Felton (Infrastructure, Planning and Development), Japie Jansen (Social Services) and Thobeka Tom (Administration, Monitoring and Evaluation). 

The Mayor, his Mayoral Committee and the municipality’s new top management team met last week to discuss residents’ grievances, the challenges facing the municipality and how best to resolve these to establish a culture of service excellence in Kouga. 

The Mayor said he was pleased with the outcome of the discussions. 

“Our new directors and Municipal Manager are a formidable team. The Council is confident that they have the necessary know-how, determination and drive to help us create a better Kouga for all,” he said. 

The Mayor said the new directors, who were appointed last month, were finalising detailed strategies on how to overcome the key challenges facing the municipality. The strategies will also address the nitty-gritty of the grievances outlined in the petitions. 

The strategies will be submitted to a special Mayoral Committee meeting in October so that they can be finalised, approved and implemented. 

The Mayor further reminded residents that they too had a role to play in ensuring service excellence and encouraged communities to become part of the solution.     

“Council and the municipal administration’s efforts will not succeed if residents do not honour their obligations as well,” he said, referring to the millions of Rands owed to the municipality in rates and service monies. 

According to figures submitted to the Council, in June this year, at the end of the 2011/2012 financial year, residents owed the municipality more than R100-million for services and rates, of which more than R90-million was debt older than 30 days. 

“This is R90-million that could have been put towards maintaining and improving service delivery,” he said. 

He dismissed the widely-held belief that it was mainly poor communities who did not pay their municipal accounts. 

“The wards that owe the municipality the most money are places such as St Francis Bay and the more affluent areas of Jeffreys Bay and Humansdorp. The municipality is also owed millions by people who own more than one property,” he said. 

The Mayor acknowledged that there were also councillors and municipal employees whose accounts were overdue. 

“We’ve already dealt with those councillors who were not paying their accounts. We expect that the debt of all councillors, save two, will be paid off fully by November,” he said. “Similarly, we will be dealing harshly with municipal employees who fail to pay their municipal accounts.” 

He said there were a number of other factors that impacted on the municipality’s income and damaged its capacity to render services effectively. 

“One such factor is the exorbitant amount of money the municipality has to spend on legal costs,” he said. “There is a countrywide trend to instigate litigation against municipalities, often simply for the sake of publicity. When this happens, regardless of the merits of the case, municipalities are forced to spend money on legal proceedings which could have been put towards service delivery. 

He said that the municipality was also being forced to incur excessive legal fees because of community conflicts. 

“An example here would be the debate around the dune spit at the St Francis canals. One stakeholder group believes rock revetments should be used to strengthen the spit but they are being vehemently opposed by another group.

“The municipality has been trying to find a solution acceptable to both parties but, at this stage, it seems inevitable that whichever group doesn’t get its way will be taking the municipality to court, again forcing us to hand over money to the courts that we could be using for service delivery instead,” he explained. 

He acknowledged that in other instances the municipality was facing litigation because weak internal controls in the past had resulted in service providers being appointed without the proper procurement process being followed. 

“We have already tightened the controls to prevent this from happening again but, regardless of whether the mistakes were made by this or the previous Council and management, we have to take responsibility and fix those mistake. This means incurring further legal costs,” he said. 

The Mayor asked residents to bear in mind that some of the grievances in their petitions, for example, education and health ( i.e. healthcare services, such as clinics) , fell outside the powers and functions of the municipality. 

“What we can do in these instances, is limited. However, as the sphere of government closest to the people, we will continue engaging with the relevant state departments to try and help communities,” he said. 

He said the municipality also lost valuable income due to the theft of electricity and water. 

“This practice is rife in communities such as Ocean View, whose residents participated in the second march to the municipality. We appeal to law-abiding residents in these communities to discourage such behaviour and to report transgressors,” he said. 

“Not only does it rob the municipality of income that could have used to improve services to these areas, it is also dangerous and result in the loss of lives. 

The Mayor acknowledged that the municipality’s salaries and wages bill was still not realistic when compared to its monthly cash-flow despite the contracts of contract workers not being renewed. 

“We would like to assure residents that the further reduction of our salaries bill remains a priority and is being addressed in conjunction with the Development Bank of South Africa and the Department of Local Government and Traditional Affairs,” he said. 

In closing, the Mayor emphasised the commitment of both Council and the municipal administration to turn Kouga around and create a better life for all. 

“Our success, however, depends as much on our communities as it does on us. Please do not purposefully try to sabotage the municipality, especially not for political gain such as the calls to have the municipality placed under administration tend to be. 

“Please bear in mind that should the municipality be placed under administration, it will not resolve our cash-flow problems. It will, in fact, lead to a further waste of funds since our new directors will still have to be paid despite their work, in effect, being taken over by an outsider. Allow them the opportunity to show us what they can do,”  Koerat added.

(edited)

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