Municipal manager gets 48% increase during lockdown

With 6.25% for the rest of the staff at Steve Tshwete Municipality. There’s a disturbing pattern here.
Local government rulers don’t seem concerned about the reality facing their own residents. Image: stevetshwetelm.gov.za

As we reported last week, the City of Joburg plans to vote a 6.4% pay increase for its councillors, much to the outrage of residents.

Steve Tshwete Municipality in Mpumalanga has gone one better, sneaking through a 48% increase for its municipal manager and a 6.25% increase for the rest of the staff. And all this during lockdown when eight out of 10 South Africans have suffered a drop in income averaging R7 500, according to TransUnion.

Municipalities are sheltering behind three-year agreements concluded in 2018 with the SA Local Government Association that allow for staff pay increases of CPI plus 1.25% this year, and a home owners’ allowance increase of 7%. But this agreement was concluded well before the lockdown, leaving cash-stumped residents to cover the municipality’s spending wishes.

“This budget bears no relation to the reality facing residents,” says Rob Hutchinson, campaign head at participative democracy non-profit Dear South Africa.

“It’s unbelievable.”

The six senior managers of Steve Tshwete Municipality voted themselves an average 16.8% increase. But the real whopper is the municipal manager, whose salary was bumped up by 48%.

Residents of the municipality will be lumped with an average increase of 9.5% on property rates, and increases of 8.1% for sewerage, 6.7% for refuse collection, 6% for water and 6.3% for electricity.

Participative democracy groups like Dear SA and the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) are stepping up their monitoring of the country’s 257 municipalities to make residents aware of the spendthrift ways of their local government rulers.

Unconscionable

“It is unconscionable for Steve Tshwete Municipality to vote itself a 6.25% increase in staff pay when the rest of the country is going through incredible difficulties,” says Outa project manager Tim Tyrrell. “People have lost their jobs, and most people have had to take a pay cut because of the lockdown, yet here we have municipal executives agreeing on a budget, seemingly without the slightest concern for the plight of their own residents.”

Tyrrell says perhaps it’s time to impose zero-based budgeting on municipalities, as Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has suggested for National Treasury.

Zero-based budgeting assumes each new year starts with a blank slate, rather than the usual method of applying a percentage increase to each expenditure item in the previous year’s budget.

Tyrrell says the municipal manager’s salary appears to have been brought into line with salaries of similar managers in other municipalities, but says the timing of the 48% increase – in the midst of an economic crash – is a slap in the face for ordinary South Africans.

Inflation-plus budgets

Hutchinson says this is yet another case of extreme insensitivity for the economic plight of the country. “We need to pay far greater attention to the budgets of the 257 municipalities around the country, as these inflation-plus budgets seem to [be] rather routine, with councillors voting themselves increases in complete disregard for the ability of residents to pay.”

The municipality plans to spend R1.93 billion in 2020/1, up 6% from the R1.82 billion spent in the previous year. Councillors are to receive a modest pay increase of 1.7%, though staff costs are budgeted to rise 6.8% to R638 million.

Steve Tshwete is one of the better-run municipalities in the country, being one of just 18 that received unqualified audits in recent years, but even here there is slippage: in previous years it received clean audits (a higher grade of audit assurance than unqualified).

Repairs and maintenance languish

Municipal Money, a database of municipalities operated by National Treasury to increase transparency and strengthen civil oversight, shows Steve Tshwete Municipality spent just 1.18% of its Property Plant and Equipment budget on repairs and maintenance, against the recommended level of 8%.

An increasingly common feature of municipal financial management is to cannibalise the repairs and maintenance budget for staff pay or favoured projects.

The result is a steadily deteriorating infrastructure across the country.

An example is Steve Tshwete’s water infrastructure. Engineers have warned for years that a water crisis is imminent due to the need to replace about 640km of asbestos pipes installed in the 1950s and 1960s. Pipes are bursting weekly, but rather than replace them all, at an estimated cost of R9 billion, the municipality has been forced to do patch-up work on an increasingly decrepit water pipe infrastructure.

Read: The problem of failing municipalities

Steve Tshwete’s capex budget for this year is R673 million, of which R110 million is going to upgrading roads, and R53 million on upgrading water assets.

But what most disturbs residents is the increase in staff pay and the huge jump in the municipal manager’s salary.

“I think this is greed on another level especially during these trying times,” says one resident.

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There should have been an emergency cost and salary freeze law put in place for municipalities, provinces and national Govt.

Why have they not thought of that?

Who is going to do this? I think the ANC is like the mafia, each town operates relatively independently as long as it pays its dues to the head of the snake. See other municipalities, SOE’s and even departments and provinces, all doing their own naughty thing.

Ramaphosa? don’t make me laugh, he’s been exposed as the ultimate “all hat and no cattle” by NDZ. Not that he cares; he’s got his loot safely stashed outside of SA and just wants to not have any really bad blips on his bumbling term in “office”.

Disgusting backward people.

And NOTHING will be done about this in true ANC fashion. The fact that the necessary checks and controls were absent to prevent such increases is an indictment on the governance of the place.

And this is a case which has actually been discovered and highlighted. Imagine how many thousand more there are like this.

COVID 19 is a human and economic tragedy but what it has done is simply accelerate our road to bankruptcy due to irregular expenditure/wastage and fraud.

The ANCs governing ability and values are being exposed but with little consequences!

I give up, there is no hope in this land! Greed, selfishness, entitlement is the Culture.

Corruption at it best! How do they agree and vote for these budgets and increases? Only R110 mil budgeted for roads upgrade and R53 mil for water. The current status of our economy and job losses, where are they going to get people to pay these increases?

Well, this is to be expected. A municipality, like an SOE, is communal property. It is a shared resource. When the people who have the power to appoint the ward councillors and the municipal manager do not own property themselves, then this implies that nobody is responsible or accountable for the management or protection of that shared resource. When the voters have no skin in the game, they will elect the leaders who promise to redistribute the assets of the property owners to those who do not own property. This is the core function of a municipality in South Africa today. It is a vehicle for the redistribution of property.

Now, when it is clear that the business model of a municipality is legalised plunder, then how can any right-minded person expect the municipal manager to act ethically and prudently? He is the instrument of plunder. That is his job description. When he plunders, then he is doing his job as prescribed by the Freedom Charter and the ANC manifesto. He deserves a bonus for doing his job!

The problem is not on the municipal level. The symptoms are on the municipal level. The problem is in Luthuli House.

Do you mean ‘redistribution of property’, or ‘redistribution of poverty’? Maybe it’s the same thing?

Yes the problem is definitely Luthuli house. It seems the NPI has recently come out of lockdown and is preparing to arrest municipal officials implicated in the VBS scandal.

My view of a municipal manager is that he should understand about issues such as waste management, reticulation networks, maintenance programmes, capacity planning and legal tendering procedures.

Not much evidence of this to be found.

These type of actions happen in a sort of ” matter of fact” way. This abuse of power gets reported in the financial press but life moves on and these events get forgotten. These is no outcry or response from National Government to this abuse and therefore there are no governance or accountable structures which prevent this type of greed and it sets the example for any other government department or municipality to do likewise.

They still don’t get the ANC’s electioneering slogan do they? The complete slogan reads, “A BETTER LIFE FOR ALL….of us caders and our pals”. Perhaps that is why they keep voting for the cabal!

More “trough feeding” under the guise of 2018 SALGA agreements. It shows exactly where true sympathies lie. These municipalities have no interest whatsoever for ratepayers. Its “take what you can get and stuff the ratepayers”.
And CR and his government look on whilst claiming “austerity” for all.

Hopefully the municipality manager is now working 48% more effectively.

Does the dilapidated asbestos pipes repair cost of R9 billion or part thereof shows somewhere on the balance sheet as a liability or as a reserve for this expense ????? – if so, it seems there was no cash linked to it.

Many ANC menbers have said: We did not fight apartheid to be poor. Time to line the pockets.

“For a country such as ours, which was already facing an unemployment crisis and weak economic growth, difficult decisions and difficult days lie ahead. We would urge that the difficult decisions to be taken are taken with care and with due regard to balancing the sustainability of companies and the livelihoods of workers. It is important that whatever is done is underpinned by ensuring a just transition to all concerned.” said Ramaphosa.
So the municipality’s response is to give all their staff an above average inflation pay increase, award themselves with extortionate pay increases and further “feed at the trough”, ignoring the ratepayers’ plight?
Say one thing ….. do the opposite. Standard ANC practice.

African National Criminals. As someone wise once said, “..the trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money”. I think that day is here.

I’ve got 100 cows, you’ve got 2, I’ll take your 2 now. Strong-man mentality of the Iron Age herdsmen

When I read stuff like this and consider the crimes of State Capture I can only conclude that Black Lives Don’t Matter to such people.

Who approved the budget?

This is disgraceful, no amount of words can describe how wrong it is to be taking massive increases when the whole country is taking salary cuts, working shorter hours and or losing their jobs.
There must be a wage freize for muncipalities management and staff.

Despite this the ANC will be re-elected in the next budget. The voters get what they want, increased poverty, and then blame it on apartheid or colonialism or now Covid 19. Unfortunate for those who oppose them and have to live in this mess created by the ANC and deal with the ever increasing costs of doing so.

Makes sense. He is now doing even less and it makes 100% sense that he is getting paid for doing more nothing.

Why should we be surprised? It’s called the “Our Turn to Eat” syndrome …

Where is the minister of Local Government (and traditional Affairs?) Isn’t this happening under her watch? Or will she claim in terms of some dispensation it’s “not within my mandate to act?”

We really need to find a highly connotative word to describe ‘Blacks stealing from Blacks’. State capture is ‘Blacks stealing from Blacks’ in the State context but it is so pervasive we need something broader.

End of comments.

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