Ndlambe is punishing its ratepayers

PAUL PROBERT

The following is an extract from Port Alfred resident Paul Probert’s letter of objections to the Ndlambe 2012-2013 budget.

THE key focus areas for the 2012/13 budget should be: revenue management, collecting outstanding debts, pricing services correctly, avoiding under-spending on repairs and maintenance, and spending on non-priorities.

When we look at the National Budget for 2012, we see South Africa’s Infrastructure Investment Campaign is about providing goods and services that create a better life for all South Africans. Government aims to eliminate the significant backlog of services, and to grow the economy, so that all South Africans who want to work, can work.

Over the next three years government plans to invest R844.5-billion into building roads, hospitals, schools, dams, electricity plants, and port and rail systems.

The national priority remains creating decent employment opportunities.

All municipalities are urged to explore opportunities to mainstream labour intensive approaches to delivering services, and to participate fully in the Extended Public Works Programme.

Poverty alleviation is at the heart of the government’s agenda.

A prime example is the budget of R4.7-billion towards Eskom’s Integrated Demand Management programme for the installation of solar water geysers. Grahamstown has already fitted 300 solar heaters this year, in the town’s low cost houses. Eskom has set a target of 3 000 for Grahamstown, and a countrywide goal of 1-million units by the end of 2014.

Ndlambe has done nothing.

National Treasury advised municipalities to take the following inflation forecasts into account: For the 2010 fiscal year, an actual headline CPI Inflation of 3,3%, for 2011 an estimate of 5%, and forecasted CPI inflation of 5,4% for 2012, 5,6% for 2013 and 5,4% for 2014.

All increases in excess of 6% need to be justified.

Ndlambe uses the petrol and electricity price hikes as its excuse for exceeding these parameters.

The municipality’s vision statement reads: “Ndlambe Municipality strives to be a growing and investment-friendly region that provides sustainable, efficient, cost-effective, adequate and affordable services to all citizens in a healthy and safe environment by 2025”.

Regrettably our little economy is not growing. Tourism, our major industry, is suffering because of the global and local economic meltdown. The pineapple industry is shrinking because it is both labour and capital intensive, and subject to both their escalating costs. Just look at our potholed roads, or walk in the effluent flowing in our streets, and you will see that we are not investment-friendly.

Our municipal rates and tariffs are too high to be sustainable, and the beautiful Kowie River that runs through Port Alfred is unhealthy due to sewage pollution.

By 2025 we shall have undergone another three national and municipal elections, and who knows who will be in power? So why should they care?

Can we trust a municipality with a budget of R265-million when it doesn’t have the will, let alone ability, to collect outstanding debt in excess of R100-million?

Can we rely on the integrity of a budget whose strategic direction is informed by statistics and reports which are all blatantly outdated – and still no supporting means or skills tests have been conducted?

What about tourism? The municipality has lost sight of tourism as being the area’s largest growth industry, having allocated a meagre R420 000 to tourism and publicity. We are blessed with good weather, lots of sunshine, lovely rivers and great beaches – providing the perfect formula that holiday makers seek. But without the municipality’s buy-in, Tourism’s potential will never be realised.

The key question is: Has Ndlambe municipality followed national Treasury’s guidelines, reacted to ratepayers’ objections and suggestions, acquired and made optimal use of all the available resources at their disposal, and employed them efficiently to manage Ndlambe effectively?

The Answer – Definitely NOT!

And if not, have they committed an offence?

YES – they are guilty of gross negligence and dereliction of duty!

Guilty not only of an injustice to the community, they are responsible for offences which warrant censure and potential penalty.

In Ndlambe we have a estimated 39% unemployment and 63% living in poverty!

Our officials’ inability to see the big picture leads them to punish ratepayers with exorbitant tariff increases, instead of availing themselves of the generous spending plans of government in the EPWP over the next three years.

At a 12% annual increase, our municipal rates and tariffs will DOUBLE every six years!

It is a grave misfortune that our Ndlambe executives lack the knowledge, skills and most importantly WILL, to seize the moment and to really make a difference for the community. The Budget offers all of us the most amazing possibilities, but without our and Treasury’s intervention, these opportunities will be lost forever. Should we permit this to happen, it’s not only shame on them, it’s also a great shame for us.

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