Picture: 123RF / BAKHTIAR ZEIN
Picture: 123RF / BAKHTIAR ZEIN

The clampdown on mayoral gravy trains and other wasteful municipal  spending is the best news we’ve had in weeks. Almost two-thirds of our municipalities are dysfunctional or in financial distress. It was high time that firm action was taken. 

Further evidence of municipal failures is the municipal debt of R17bn to  Eskom. It seems that many municipalities collect electricity payments from consumers and then spend it on other projects. This is not just wrong, it is also dishonest.

The ban on free drinks at council meetings, restrictions on catering, limiting entertainment expenses for qualifying officials to just R2,000 a year, the ban on credit cards linked to municipal accounts and only economy class tickets for flights, are all welcome.

Perhaps the most important change is the restriction on the use of expensive consultants, often to do work that should be done by well-paid municipal officials. The Zondo commission of inquiry has taught us that one of the commonest forms of corruption is overpayment of consultants and facilitators, often for little or no work. This has cost Eskom and Transnet many billions of rand. It is likely that some municipalities have been bled in the same way.

We must ask, however, why it has taken so long. Surely the SA Local Government Association (Salga) knew what was going on? Yet we did not hear a squeak out of them. Perhaps the time has come to review Salga’s mandate and terms of reference, and hold it to account.

Geoff Jacobs
President, Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry