Metro’s R25m salary splurge

Brian Hayward

RATEPAYERS in Nelson Mandela Bay have forked out more than R25- million in “unnecessarily inflated” salaries for about 50 senior municipal managers over the past seven years, an internal municipal audit committee has found.

Of that money, at least R3-million has been “needlessly paid out” over the past nine months, according to the audit, because the municipality failed to implement the findings of a task team set up in 2009 by acting municipal manager Elias Ntoba to evaluate the jobs of between 400 and 500 employees receiving a “transitional allowance”.

The transitional allowance – later termed “pay parity” after the Pay Parity Task Team was set up in 2009 – was first implemented in 2006, but was backdated to 2004.

It came about after disgruntled municipal staff from Uitenhage and Despatch complained they were being paid less than their Port Elizabeth counterparts with similar job descriptions, following the formation of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro in 2000.

But, according to four senior officials familiar with the process, senior managers who were not necessarily eligible for the allowance – primarily because no one else fitted their job descriptions in the metro – “jumped on the bandwagon” and had their salaries inflated.

The task team found that at least 50 senior municipal managers – most of whom had never even worked for the Despatch or Uitenhage municipalities – were each being overpaid by as much as R17000 monthly. The collective monthly payout stands at about R330000.

But although Ntoba signed off on the findings last September, none of the salaries have yet been downscaled.

However, the municipality says it has been working on the “complex” issue ever since the findings were handed over, and that a key agreement was due to be signed today.

The list of managers, bearing Ntoba’s signature, has been shown to The Herald. According to the findings, the salaries of about 50 senior managers should be “restored” to their pre- allowance salary grades, meaning those named were not found by the task team to be eligible for the higher salaries they have been receiving.

According to the findings, the basic salaries of the senior managers (excluding perks such as up to R10000 a month for a car allowance) include that:

 ýOffice of the Speaker director Nimrod Mqulwana should have had his salary reduced by about R17000 monthly, from about R40000 to R23000;

ýCommunications head Roland Williams should have had his salary reduced by about R12000, from about R40000 to about R28000 monthly;

ýNumerous assistant managers should have had their salaries reduced by about R10000, including SMME Development assistant manager Luyanda Jack, from about R32000 to R22000 monthly; and

ýEnvironmental management head Joram Mkosana should have had his salary reduced by about R8000 per month, from about R40000 to about R32000.

On June 10, members of the task team – made up of six officials and headed by the acting director of labour relations, Hendrik Viviers – had a meeting with Ntoba to complain about “the inconsistent application of the findings”, according to officials who attended the meeting and did not want to be named when speaking to The Herald.

A letter handed to Ntoba at the meeting, which The Herald has seen, is titled: “Over-expenditure due to the non-implementation of the schedules signed by the acting municipal manager, Mr E Ntoba, with regards to the pay parity results to correct such over expenditure.”

It was dated June 14 and signed by SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) task team representative Armstrong Poswa, fellow task team member and Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu) representative Anton Mostert and task team chairperson Viviers. “The schedules were signed by Mr Ntoba nine months ago and had not been implemented,” the letter read.

“The Pay Parity Task Team expressed concern for [sic] the inconsistent implementation of the Pay Parity signed schedules over the past nine months.

“It is recommended that the overpayments of all staff … be corrected and implemented before July 5 2011, with the payroll office.”

Asked about the delay in reassessing the inflated salaries, municipal spokesperson Ongama Mtimka said the process of implementing the task team’s findings had started “immediately after the municipal manager approved their report in September 2010”.

“Because this process involves employees, the municipality, as an employer, has had to ensure that it acts within the confines of the law, giving the employees time to make representations on the implementation process, among other things.

“We could not just act arbitrarily in a way that could result in us wasting ratepayers’ money on legal fees defending cases.”

Mtimka said that in addition to this, negotiations needed to involve councillors, “so we are expecting to see some progress now that new councillors have been deployed”.

The situation has drawn harsh criticism from Samwu, which said Ntoba’s lack of action “shows his continuous failure to account on a number of issues”.

Samwu provincial secretary Siphiwo Ndunyana said the union “was not party to the abnormality” of senior managers receiving the allowance.

“It was our call for workers to receive pay parity – equal work for equal pay.

“But the municipality must explain why there was that abnormality [with the senior managers receiving pay parity] in the first place,” he said.

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