GOVERNANCE BLUES

Tariffs hold back Joburg City budget approval – again

By Nkateko Mabasa 5 June 2018

Johannesburg from Carlton Centre, by Paul Saad via Flickr

Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba and his DA-led government have been sent back to the drawing board to make changes to the City of Joburg’s R59-billion budget – for a second time – after the ANC rejected the entire budget while the EFF abstained from the vote but asked that the tariff adjustments be reconsidered.

Joburg City Mayor, Herman Mashaba, and his DA-led government will have another opportunity to convince City councillors to pass the 2018/2019 financial budget when the council sits on Friday.

It will be their third attempt to get approval for the budget which must be passed before the end of June or the City could find itself under provincial administration.

The EFF, while not in coalition with the DA, lends its support to the DA-led council, but has dug its heels in over the tariff increases in the budget.

The City wants to increase electricity at the National Energy Regulator SA recommendation of of 7.37%, water, sewage and sanitation services by 14.2%, waste removal by 6.8%, and property rates by 6%.

The EFF wants changes to the electricity and water increases. It wants the electricity tariff to decrease by 7.17% and water by 13.2%. It is happy with the tariffs for waste removal and property rates.

If the City agrees to the EFF’s demands, the Red Berets will vote in favour of the budget, meaning it will be passed.

At Monday’s council sitting, the City attempted to adjust the budget there and then.

Victor Penning, DA councillor, then raised a motion for the recommendations to be put to a vote and accepted as a resolution of council.

However, they were met with objections for rushing the process.

According to Section 25 of the Local Government: Municipal Financial Management ACT, 56 of 2003, when the resolutions setting out the municipal budget fails to carry the vote, the Speaker of Council has to call a Special Council Meeting within seven days for reconsideration.

At Monday’s sitting, ANC Councillor Geoffrey Makhubo said: “You cannot want to fix an unlawful thing by doing another unlawful thing.”

Makhubo raised the same objections that the party had with the original budget, saying public participation in drafting the budget is critical to the allocation of funds, something he claims the DA has not done. The 7.37% electricity rate increase was also raised as an issue by the ANC.

MMC of Finance Funzela Ngobeni replied that this value is arrived at by the application of the National Energy Regulator’s (Nersa’s) municipal tariff guidelines and recommendations.

But Makhubo said there were years when the city increased electricity less than what was recommended by Nersa.

Our position has not changed, and unless you bring something to the residents of Johannesburg, we are not going to support this,” said Makhubo.

As I have said, we are a self-funding municipality,” said Ngobeni.

With a huge infrastructure backlog, said Ngobeni, the tariffs are set at this rate so that the City can engage in all of its planned projects. Chief among them is the Diphetogo Programme meant to redirect the municipality to focus on the needs of the people.

EFF Joburg leader, Musa Novela, said water was a basic fundamental human right and agreed with the universal supply of 6 kl free water.

The EFF went on to recommend a cut in the proposed electricity tariff of 7.37% down to 7.23%.

And make a firm commitment that the inputs and comments of the people of Johannesburg must be put into consideration,” said Novela.

We accept the EFF amendments,” said Ngobeni.

According to National Treasury, the budget must be approved before 1 July, which is the start of the City’s financial year, or it will be placed under provincial administration.

The DA will table another budget on Friday 8 June. DM

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