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Eastern Cape municipality racks up R1m bill on travel, beanies, dustbins etc

Eastern Cape municipality racks up R1m bill on travel, beanies, dustbins etc
The Sarah Baartman District Municipality.(Photo: Supplied)

One of the Eastern Cape’s district municipalities – flagged by the Public Protector for failing in service delivery and tasked with helping seven local municipalities with emergency services and roads – has instead spent hundreds of thousands of rands on overseas travel, catering, garden tools, umbrellas, beanies and dustbins.

A R1-million bill for the mayor and his committee members for overseas travel, branded clothing and umbrellas, lavish catering, gardening tools and expensive dustbins are some of the expenses at the Sarah Baartman District Municipality that have been flagged in recent financial reports.

The municipality, a part of the province with truly appalling roads, has also returned a crucial roads grant to Treasury after failing to spend the money.

Some of South Africa’s most popular beach towns, Jeffreys Bay, St Francis Bay, Port Alfred and Kenton-on-Sea fall under this municipality, as do inland towns like Graaff-Reinet and Somerset East. 

The Sarah Baartman District Municipality is the largest in the Eastern Cape. It does not have a revenue base and is heavily dependent on grant funding and its portion of the equitable share.

Its tasks are to “provide support to the seven local municipalities that fall within its area that are too small to provide services to their respective communities”.

It supports the local municipalities in providing basic services like electricity, water and refuse removal. It also has certain disaster management functions and is responsible for roads.

These smaller municipalities are Kou-Kamma (Tsitsikamma and Langkloof), Dr Beyers Naude (Graaff-Reinet, Aberdeen, Nieu-Bethesda, Klipplaat, Jansenville, Willowmore), Kouga (Jeffreys Bay, St Francis Bay), the Blue Crane Route (Somerset-East), Sundays River Valley (Addo and Sundays River), Ndlambe (Port Alfred) and Makana (Makhanda). 

At least one of the province’s distressed municipalities, Makana Local Municipality, falls under the Sarah Baartman District Municipality.

Hennie Britz, a Democratic Alliance (DA) councillor in Sarah Baartman, said he will be writing to the Auditor-General to highlight the “mind-blowing expenses” incurred by a coalition government formed by the ANC and the EFF.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Eastern Cape warns of drastic budget-slashing to meet national government targets

The information comes from financial reports tabled at a council meeting in November. 

The revelation comes as austerity measures from both the national government and the provincial government take effect in the province.

“The municipality’s internal audit committee reported to the council that R1-million was spent on overseas travel by the executive mayor, his mayoral committee members and officials with little to no benefit to residents. 

“The DA has already reported this luxurious expense to the Eastern Cape MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Zolile Williams, and National Treasury,” Britz said.

The municipality also spent R470,000 on catering and groceries, R45,200 on personal protective equipment, R42,000 on garden tools (although the municipality does not have any gardens to maintain), R270,000 on beanies, branded jackets, scarves, umbrellas and toiletries, and R76,000 on cleaning material. 

“The municipality also bought and supplied two waste bins at a cost of R165,000, while the actual cost should have been only R18,000 per bin,” Britz continued.

The municipality was flagged by the Public Protector earlier this year as one of the councils that is failing in its constitutional duties to provide services to its residents specifically regarding the administration of its conditional roads grant. 

This grant, however, was returned unspent to the Treasury. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: R3.8bn a year – how much the Eastern Cape needs to fix potholes and maintain roads

“Lack or poor maintenance of access roads in villages within [the Ndlambe Local Municipality in Port Alfred] and the Sarah Baartman District Municipality which has the potential to affect economic activity in the area,” the report read.

Earlier this year, in an answer to the provincial legislature, MEC Williams said the Sarah Baartman District Municipality has only 25 fire engines, a shortage of 19 to comply with national standards. He added that only 16 of the 25 were in working condition. 

“The municipality should rather have invested in service delivery, such as much-needed fire trucks for the Ndlambe and Koukamma Local Municipalities, and building capacity in struggling local municipalities,” Britz added.

The municipality also lost R351,000 in conditional grant funding relating to the Rural Roads Access Management Grant due to it being unspent. This too will be returned to National Treasury.

Irregular expenditure of R1.478-million, as well as R107,000 in fruitless and wasteful expenditure, were also incurred over the past financial year, according to the municipality’s financial statements.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Service delivery collapse: ‘Gatvol’ Eastern Cape resident reports provincial-wide failures

The municipality is headed by former Graaff-Reinet mayor Deon de Vos – both he and his communication staff have ignored several requests to comment on Britz’s statement.

In their 2021/2022 financial year audit, the Auditor-General had flagged issues with procurement and contract management legislation and the prevention of irregular expenditure, uncompetitive and unfair procurement and irregular expenditure related to supply chain management for this municipality. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • H K says:

    Unless I am missing something why do we need a district municipality to oversee another one…….

  • Robert Pegg says:

    The idea of a District Municipality overseeing Local Municipalities, is to use ratepayers money to create jobs for politicians. There can be no other reason !
    Regarding the lack of fire trucks, my company was asked to submit quotations a number of years ago. I suggested they consider used fire trucks and got a blunt answer saying they will only consider new ones. Needless to say they never purchased any, which is an ongoing problem in SA.

  • Geoff Coles says:

    Does this District Municipality have any purpose whatsoever

  • Rae Earl says:

    The usual ANC tactics. Used by the ANC and their coalition partners, where applicable. Money from central government allocated to various infrastructure maintenance and repair costs is not used as it is viewed as a piggy bank for personal use by municipal dept. heads and their lackeys. Much of the unused money is returned to central government because these same people are generally too stupid and inept to have the financial know-how to steal more than they already have.

    • Michael Thomlinson says:

      My thoughts exactly. They are so busy trying to find ways to dip their dirty little hands into the piggy bank that they can’t actually do the job they are employed for. If even 50% of the allocated budget had been used to repair roads then that would have created much needed employment in the area.
      Shame on them and so frsutrating that it seems that non of these thugs can be brought to book. The question, I think, that is in everyones thoughts is WHY do we have to live with this nonsense?

  • Duncan W says:

    Part of the problem must be lack of accountability, nobody is going to be held responsible and disciplined, nobody will be fired and no attempt will be made to recover the money ill-spent.

    • Roelf Pretorius says:

      If coalition government becomes a reality, then holding them to account may also become something that really happens. The only reason it does not happen is because parliament and the executive are from exactly the same party; and the whole advantage of a proportional list system, such as we have, is that it ends up with mainly coalition governments. We all also see that this may well become a reality next year. But then the bigger oppositions such as the DA must get the message that they have to respect smaller opposition parties instead of trying to devour them. In other countries coalitions, even between multiple political parties, work exceedingly well. Maybe, in SA, each political party should start to reflect upon what itselves are doing wrong to prevent this, instead of continually blaming others as is usually the case today in SA.

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    Councillor Britz, should that not be a warning to all South Africans about what is going to happen if an ANC-EFF coalition takes over at national level? And should the DA people not realise that the first priority of all sensible politicians in the country has to be to forge a coalition WITH the ANC that excludes the corrupt, and take the cue that the ANC needs someone to hold them accountable in parliament and to force them to drop fundamentally corrupt practices such as cadre deployment? Even if they have to be encouraged to get another funding model for themselves, as I think we all know that the main reason for cadre deployment, the clinging to control over the economy through these bloated SOE’s, and so many other corrupt practices, is to ensure funding for their election campaigns and other party expenses. It is time that we realise that this is not about political parties, but about SA – if SA goes down, all of you politicians, even those of the ANC also, are going down with it, and if they are clearly shown this, who knows what may happen inside the ANC regarding changes? But the DA national leadership must also understand that SA is not only more important than the ANC, but also than the DA; because if your national leadership don’t wake up to that soon, you are going to be the main loser in this coming elections, if the latest IPSOS poll is anything to go by.

    • Senzo Moyakhe says:

      Roelf, a principled party getting into a coalition with the ANC will never be a plausible solution; well not until Jesus returns at least…

      The ANC is rotten to the core, there is simply no getting around that. The majority of those who stay in the party, with the exception of those who already have their fingers in the pie, is a hope that they will get their ‘man’ at the table, so that they can get in on the act too. The culture of patronage is deeply ingrained. That is the legacy of cadre deployment. Dismantling this 30 years of rot – one generation lost – is not going to be an easy task. But the painful reality is that we who make these remarks on these sites are a tiny portion of the population that is able to make considered commentary on the situation. But that is all it remains, comments on social media.

      I have no ready solution at hand and the behemoth that is the ANC simply bashes their way through by pulling all the stops in getting the rural population behind them. As well as relying on the disillusioned Black population choosing to ignore elections because they see no hope in what is presented to them. But it’s tough.

  • Margi Jensen says:

    Another tale of woe. Disgraceful

  • Vincent Britz says:

    Well there you go, first hand experience of what will happen if the corrupt ANC & EFF thugs have to run this country together! They will steal & loot all the taxpayer’s money on themselves!!

  • Senzo Moyakhe says:

    Only R1,5 million? This Mayor and Municipal Manager need to learn more from their buddies about plunder and skullduggery!!! 😏

    On a serious note though, this is just a small picture of a province-wide degeneration in governance and ethical leadership, not to mention competence in ACTUALLY doing what’s required to run a district authority. Mr Britz is wasting his body’s oxygen supply reporting this to the MEC, nothing will get done. What needs to happen in the Eastern Cape – province wide – is that the ANC needs to be voted out. Unfortunately a major part of the ANC electorate is in the rural areas where service delivery has never been a point of contention, SASSA grants are meticulously paid out.

    The key here is how to get the ANC out of government. It has been stated a number of times but the DA does not quite get the picture – it presents a ‘White’ face. Regardless of how well-run the municipalities as well as the Province it governs is, that is not going ‘to get out there’; so to speak. Having principled Black leaders departing in anger simply reinforces this image. A proper effort to get a DA that has an integrated face out there is vital. Speaking from the podium and making media comments gets nowhere…

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    This is exactly the same situation in almost every ANC run municipality, whether it’s a local council or District – remember the two idiots who went to the World Cup Final on taxpayer money? And I’ll bet my house that the MEC and Premier won’t lift a finger to rectify this.

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