Uncollected refuse and illegal dumping on Cope Road. Picture: Supplied
Uncollected refuse and illegal dumping on Cope Road. Picture: Supplied

R526 million bonus for eThekwini staff

By Chanelle Lutchman Time of article published Mar 5, 2021

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Durban - eThekwini has paid staff millions in bonuses while residents struggle without basic services for days on end.

Last week, the City tabled an adjustment budget which showed it paid staff bonuses of R526 million in November last year. Workers in the city also received above inflation salary hikes for the current financial year despite many employees in the private sector losing their jobs or taking salary cuts.

Staff received the bonuses despite the fact that minimum standards have not been met.

The norm for electricity distribution losses is set at between 7 – 10% but eThekwini reports losses closer to 12%. The norm for water losses is 15-30%, but eThekwini reports losses of more than 52%.

Residents in the city have played their part by paying their bills.

According to Mxolisi Kaunda, the mayor of eThekwini: “It is encouraging that the City has maintained its impeccable collection rate, and as of end January 2021, the collection rate was 95%.

“This demonstrates that the measures we have put in place to improve our billing system, even prior to the pandemic, are yielding positive results. We anticipate an improvement in the collection rate in the month of February and are confident that we will see positive development throughout the financial year.”

Opposition political parties were not happy with the proposed adjustments to the City’s budget.

Nicole Graham, DA eThekwini Caucus Leader, said water outages, power failures, overgrown parks and open spaces, dumping and uncollected refuse, broken street lights, waist-high weeds and erroneous bills were the daily realities for eThekwini residents.

She did not vote for the amendments because, in her opinion, the focus was on annual bonuses rather than fixing problems.

“The budget does little to address the municipality’s service delivery and financial crises. Service delivery in eThekwini has all but collapsed, and this is the ANC’s response – dish out bonuses to staff and ensure that politicians can keep their Metro police protection and conveys.

“Water and sanitation officials will receive bonuses totalling R54 million despite the department being in absolute shambles. This money should have been used for spares, contractors and maintenance, but will instead line the pockets of staff.”

Graham said Durban Solid Waste (DSW) staff would also receive bonuses totalling R31.6 million.

Meanwhile, Metro Police have spent over R1 billion more than was budgeted for in this financial year.

“eThekwini residents are no safer, but politicians certainly are. When the DA made clear proposals at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, our focus was clear. We needed to put people first. We needed to approach the bargaining council to take bonuses off the table and cut the fat. But these were largely ignored.”

Mdu Nkosi, IFP Exco member in eThekwini, said: “Issues of water being cut is a weekly problem. The failure to replace and upgrade our city’s water infrastructure poses a severe health risk for residents. We heard that money was being borrowed to fix the issue but after the money was borrowed, the problem has not been resolved.

“We did not vote for the budget as we do not believe the budget puts residents first. If you look at the issues with DSW, people are living in filth. They continue to complain, but nothing is being done about it.

"eThekwini is the largest Metro municipality in KZN and it is the economic hub of the province. However, incompetence on the part of officials is undermining service delivery. eThekwini Metro residents are in dire need of competent leadership that will take care of their needs, irrespective of whether there are elections or not."

Sibongiseni Mkhize, eThekwini ANC Chief Whip, said the ruling party supported the adjusted budget.

“Before the Council meeting, there was a Prioritisation Committee, where all portfolio committee chairs were invited, hence as the ANC we believe that all processes were followed.

Tim Tyrrell, project manager at Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), said according to the Mid-term Adjustment Budget, the Covid-19 pandemic presented the following financial risks and challenges:

· A decrease in revenue collection;

· Cash flow constraints;

· The reprioritisation of expenditure to address issues related to the pandemic;

· A decrease in the Capital Budget;

· An increasing community needs with limited funding available;

· A decrease in revenue generation for entities due to lockdown regulations;

· Going concern challenges with municipal entities such as uShaka Marine World.

He said based on these, eThekwini needed to reduce expenditure.

“This statement appears to have been forgotten with regards to the reprioritisation of the budget to the largest item of annual bonus provision of R526-million. This is blatantly unfair to city residents and ratepayers.

“For instance, large parts of the municipality shut down for several months during the lockdown. Various information and rate hall centres were closed as were libraries, museums, beaches, pools and other hubs. In many cases, the staff stayed at home as their work could not be done remotely.

“We do agree that certain individuals should get bonuses such as the Metro Police Officers and other critical service personnel who worked under trying circumstances. However, a blanket approach is irrational and inappropriate.”

Tyrrell said there were some positives in the adjusted budget. This included reducing the costs of catering, events and gifts.

eThekwini Municipality did not respond by the time of publication.

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