Monday, November 30, 2009

Our Municipality: So far, So very Good

- Linda Jaquet -

The fair winds of change certainly seem to blowing in our Municipality. At a frank press briefing in the middle of November, the Executive Mayor, Councillor Magdalena Benjamin, accompanied by the Municipal Manager, Juanita Fortuin, reported on a meeting which President Zuma held in Cape Town on 20 October with all the Mayors and Municipal Managers of South Africa’s 283 Municipalities.

The meeting followed the countrywide assessment of the performance of local government and a comprehensive report of the findings for every municipality. All Cabinet Members, Premiers, and Directors General of Government Departments attended.

The New President speaks

Mayor Benjamin explained that the President conveyed a brutally frank message that Government was meant to serve the people and not the other way around. He said that the focus on service delivery had to be sharpened and set 2014 as the target date by which he expected a clean audit target from all levels of Government on important areas of governance.

In essence this means that all financial statements and maintenance systems had to be in order and that all communities should by then have clean water, decent sanitation and access to electricity. The President also emphasised that oversight of local government had to be strengthened but that politicians were not to interfere with the administration.

What we can expect

Mayor Benjamin then described plans that the Municipality had developed in response to the assessment of its performance. These included:

* Regular interaction with the community, working towards effective area committees and quarterly meetings with role players including representatives of the farming community, those involved in the tourism industry, business, heritage groups and other non-profit organisations.

* A complete analysis of basic service delivery, of backlogs and the re-organisation of the Municipal team to deal with problem areas will be made. This includes improving the capacity of the Municipality through employing the right people for the job and proper staff training. Ms Fortuin added that for instance, she and her staff had committed themselves to ensuring that by July next year, Prince Albert will comply fully with the Department of Water Affairs’ strict water supply and waste water management requirements. Here she was talking about the Blue/Green Drop project, which will make sure that our town’s drinking water is sampled and tested daily, by trained interns.

* Control systems would be tightened to make sure that spending was in line with approved plans and targets and proper oversight to ensure good financial and performance management.

For example, residents who order the sanitation truck (suigtenk) over weekends or after hours will have to complete a record of when and how long the truck was used.

* Proper planning was to be done for disasters and emergencies, including fire, especially at this time of year when the Municipality no longer has its own fire engine.

* An assessment of infrastructure such as roads, sewage, the storm water system, water and electricity in Prince Albert and upgrading of infrastructure in Leeu-Gamka and Klaarstroom are underway.
* Proper responses will be given to queries and the Municipality would intervene with Provincial and National governments in those areas outside the Municipality’s responsibility, for example, health facilities and public transport.


A welcome and impressive aspect of the briefing was the detailed information the Mayor gave on the progress that has already been made on implementing programmes on capital expenditure and finance. Notable examples are how and by when the vexing problem of municipal accounts will be fixed and a commitment was made to finalise all the backlog of outstanding building plans by the end of November. These included deadlines, time frames and importantly, what had been accomplished and how many jobs had been created.

There was a clear thread in the briefing: There will be a strong drive to improve service delivery, accountability and value for the money taxpayers are paying. The Municipality will now be more open to the public and has made a commitment to alleviate poverty by employing local labour on capital projects and the right people in the Municipality.

As if that is not already a big commitment, the Municipality plans to lighten up from time to time! Councillor Benjamin will host a Ball on 4 December in aid of the Mayor’s Bursary Fund. “I hope that local businesses will contribute in kind to this Fund and help fund her dinner for Senior Citizens on 11 December”.

The Mayor is also launching a “Christmas tree drive” and asks residents to donate new or used, but neat and clean, toys and books for children who will not be getting presents this year. There will also be school holiday programmes in the three towns to keep youngsters busy and to teach them new and interesting crafts and skills. Above all they will be having fun!

Councillors’ Portfolios

As political head, Mayor Benjamin is an ex officio member of all the Council’s committees. Deputy Mayor Pienaar chairs the Finance Committee, while Councillor Abrahams heads the Community Development Committee. Councillor Jansen is in charge of the LED/IDP Committee, Speaker Botes chairs the Personnel and Transformation Committee and the Building Committee is chaired by Councillor Goliath.

The Mayor encouraged residents to contact the Councillors about matters that fell under their purview

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