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Limpopo’s sorry state: Millions spent on consultants, residents still face dire water shortages

2019-06-30 19:34

Residents of Vhembe District Municipality in Limpopo, which was cited as one of the worst-run municipalities by Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu this week, still face dire water shortages and dismal service delivery.

According to his consolidated general report on the local government audit outcomes, which was released this week, municipalities with adverse or disclaimed opinions – a reflection of the auditor’s inability to give an unqualified opinion – spent R56 million on consultants.

The district municipalities of Mopani and Vhembe spent R24 million and R19 million, respectively, on such, while Collins Chabane spent R13 million.

Vhembe was one of 11 municipalities that invested public funds totalling R2.6 billion into the now collapsed VBS Mutual Bank – in violation of municipal finance regulations and disregarding warnings by National Treasury.

Its mayor, Florence Radzilani, a senior ANC provincial executive member, was forced to resign after the scandal.

The municipality lost R300 million when VBS was liquidated after a frenzy of looting.

Makwetu’s report found that the cumulative amount spent on consultants by the municipalities of Vhembe, Polokwane, Elias Motsoaledi, Mopani and Collins Chabane over the past two years totalled R159 million; yet skills were not transferred adequately, as management continued to appoint consultants for the preparation of the financial statements.

“Projects that were to be funded by the money that had been invested could not begin,” wrote Makwetu in his report.

“For example, Vhembe district could not repair and maintain water pipes and boreholes.”

He continued: “The construction project of a bulk water pipe – from Nandoni to Muraga via Mangondi – which was started in 2016, was still not 100% complete at year-end. This was due to ineffective monitoring, management and supervision.”

Despite this, Limpopo was the only province with some improvement in the overall audit outcomes.

But the improvements were “consultant-driven rather than as a result of a concerted effort by the leadership to address internal control deficiencies” – and 96% of the municipalities used consultants at a cost of R177 million.

Despite Makwetu’s previous warnings against overreliance on consultants, he emphasised that the municipal leadership had continued to use them as a short-term remedy rather than focusing on improving capacity and skills in the finance units, and improving the control environment.

Therefore, he concluded, “it is likely that outcomes will remain erratic until sustainable solutions are implemented”.

Residents were still waiting to be connected to water supplies, he added, and had to continue to rely instead on water from streams and rivers.

Tendani Mudau, of the SA National Civic Organisation and a resident of Vhembe, said that, although people could get water at least two to three times a week, unlike before, not having water pipes in their homesteads was still a challenge.

“The majority of places in the Vhembe area have had taps in their yards for quite a while and we are hoping the same can be done for those of us living near the Vondo Dam,” Mudau said.

In March, the community protested against the lack of water.

In Maniini village, outside Thohoyandou, community members also have no water, despite having had taps installed in their yards years ago.

Nthangeni Masidwali (23) said it was frustrating to have to wake up early in winter just to go and queue for water with other community members.

Although he had access to a family bakkie that enabled him to fetch water at Tshiulungoma village, Masidwali said it remained a challenge for other community members who did not have vehicles.

“What about other people who have to carry buckets and use wheelbarrows when they have taps at their homes?” he asked.

Meanwhile, the DA in Limpopo will submit a motion at the next sitting of the provincial legislature for Treasury MEC Seaparo Sekoati to enforce financial accountability and discipline in all 24 municipalities that failed to improve their audit outcomes and achieve a clean audit.

DA provincial leader Jacques Smalle on Thursday said that the lack of accountability and its negative effects on service delivery were evident in the uncompleted bulk water projects earmarked for the Vhembe and Mopani district municipalities.

“Collectively, more than R115 million was spent by the districts on incomplete water infrastructure projects. This has not only resulted in service delivery protests in the areas affected by water shortages, but also in the death of a child, who fell into a hole that was not filled,” said Smalle.

At the time of going to print, Matodzi Ralushai, the spokesperson for Vhembe district municipality, had not responded to questions that had been emailed to him.

– Mukurukuru Media

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August 25 2019