Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Politics Paralyse our Municipal Service Delivery

- Linda Jaquet -

Between 24 February and 18 March, the Prince Albert Municipal Council was forced to adjourn every one of its seven meetings, as there was no quorum. On each occasion the ANC councillors indicated that they could not support a motion of no confidence in the Municipal Manager, Juanita Fortuin, tabled by the three DA councillors. As a result, the Adjusted Municipal Budget had also not been passed by the time of going to press. In terms of legislation this budget had to be approved by the end of February but the council is only due to meet again on 31 March.

The DA councillors, the Speaker, Cllr Stoffel Botes, Cllr Willem Jansen and Cllr Jacobus Goliath refused to disclose the content of their motion to the public. They told the Friend that in terms of the Council rules they could only do so once the motion had been passed. They added that they had informed both the ANC and Fortuin of the reasons for their motion and that they had the backing of their regional structure and senior DA members. Fortuin will then have seven days to respond to claims of alleged irregularities.

They also stated that the ANC members appeared to be protecting Fortuin unnecessarily and were also guilty of postponing the vote on the Adjusted Budget until the very last and then insisting that the budget be discussed ahead of the DA’s motion. Cllr Willem Jansen told the Friend that “it was not important” that the budget had not been passed by its due date.

In turn, Deputy Mayor April Pienaar told the Friend that the ANC councillors could not support the DA’s motion as they had not been provided with any information in support of the allegations and could not make an informed decision. As a result they had no alternative but to walk out of council meetings. They pointed out that in case of an even vote, the Speaker, who is from the DA, had a casting vote.

Another worrying development is that Cllr Pienaar claimed that as Acting Mayor in Cllr Maria Benjamin’s absence, he could not approve any activities provided for in the Adjusted Budget because that would be unauthorised expenditure. This has had a negative effect on the day-to-day operations of the Municipality.

On 3 March, the eve of another special council meeting, residents, including some DA members drafted a petition in support of Ms Fortuin’s performance. In just 18 hours they collected over 250 signatures, which Barbara Gorniak, the initiator of the petition, handed to the Speaker before the council meeting. This was witnessed by 25 concerned residents. More signatures were collected the following day and again handed to the Speaker. A copy of the signed petition was sent to the MEC for Local Government, Anton Bredell.

At midday on 23 March the Friend was told that the regional leaders of the DA and the ANC had worked out an end to the impasse. Both parties would withdraw their motions of no confidence and work out how to deal with the allegations against Ms Fortuin before the end of the month.

However, later on the same afternoon, the Friend learned that Councillor Willem Jansen of the DA had personally tabled a motion of no confidence in Ms Fortuin. The Friend will keep readers informed of further developments.

Interviewed by the Friend, Minister Bredell said that he was very concerned about what was happening in Prince Albert and that he would send two senior officials as soon as possible to establish the truth about the allegations against Ms Fortuin.

Bredell said that he was tired of councillors who wasted their time on petty personal politicking rather than concentrating on service delivery. He hoped for a better quality of candidates in the municipal election scheduled for 2011.

No comments: