Budget Oversight Report to CouncillorsApril 29, 2022
Signal Hill View Site SquattersMay 19, 2022
To update you on recent activities:
- In pursuance of our right and duty to participate in the affairs of our municipality, specifically to participate in the budget process, a delegation of our EXCO met with the mayor and the Municipal Manager on 3 May to discuss the draft budget.
- Broadly, we raised our concerns that the draft budget did not provide the needed cost-cutting in employee costs, nor money allocated to the repair, maintenance and replacement of Plett’s infrastructure. With its fast-growing population and housing boom, not enough money had been budgeted for infrastructure to support it, nor to sustain what we have. There was no allowance for even the minimum recommended normal maintenance, let alone the need to catch up to the maintenance backlog that has built up over the years, nor replacement of over-aged infrastructure that is beyond its design life and overdue for replacement. We were informed that the mayor had referred the entire budget back to the officials for rework.
- We are pleased to say that having shared our oversight reports with the Auditor-General for years on the Annual Report and Budget, the A-G has announced that his department will do an in-depth audit of Bitou next year. This is very welcome news for us as well as for council as it will focus the attention on areas that need attention and correction.
- On the finance side, we have learned that Bitou CFO Dyushu has resigned, been released early from his contract and given 2 months’ salary. The good news in that is that council can now interview and appoint a CFO with the necessary skills to turn around the municipality’s financial management. The bad news is that yet again a senior official facing charges of serious financial misconduct is let off the hook and is free to pop up in some other unsuspecting municipality. As the A-G pointed out our “consequence management” is not up to scratch.
- Several months ago, our ProAction committee commenced a study by experienced (mostly retired) professionals to assess and report on the condition of our infrastructure, its design capacity and age, and to make recommendations as to structural and financial needs to keep it 100% operational rather than collapsed as we see all over the country. This has entailed a scientific “future scenario” based on available historical information and other entities’ reports on various aspects. The next step is to assess the state of the infrastructure, design capacities etc. To this end our delegation discussed our project with the mayor and we appreciate his undertaking that we will have the municipality’s co-operation in this. Early indications are that given the long lead times for replacement and/or expansion of infrastructure (sometimes 5 years and more) planning to do so should already have been commenced years ago. There is a lot of work to be done for the municipality to catch up and we trust that our final expert assessment and recommendations will assist in keeping our infrastructure healthy and operational.
- The Government’s Blue Drop Water Report has been published for 2022 and Bitou ranked among the top 5 performers nationwide for clean water, so congratulations to the Water Department. Especially so because this has been achieved with aging infrastructure and a dire shortage of budget over years while successive councils redirected budget to non-essential expenditure and concentrated their energies on playing politics. Once again, we salute the employees in our water department for what they achieve year after year against all odds. Thank you.