Municipality money vanishes

How can a municipality lose R3 million of utility poles, plus the paperwork? It’s easy, if you know how.

- Advertisement -

Some of the stories of government incompetence are hard to swallow. Unhappily, however, they are true. The Auditor-General, Terence Nombembe, recently reported that two wooden utility poles belonging to the Madibeng Local Municipality had disappeared. The trouble was that they had cost R3 million.

When asked what was so special about these poles, the municipality confessed that it had lost the full copy of the report, but then said that the R3 million figure did not relate to just two poles but to all the poles purchased for an electrification project. So, from this, it appears that it had not lost just two poles but the entire consignment. Were they delivered to the wrong address? Stolen? Chopped up for firewood? Who knows?

And here’s what makes it worse. Aukasie, the area where the electrification project supposedly had to take place, has long been electrified. So what were the poles for? If this was a new project, it must have been a very big one. At R1 000 a pole, that’s 3 000 poles.

- Advertisement -

No water, no feedlot
This is the same municipality that has been unable to supply its communities with clean water for three years. In 2010, the municipality said it was working on several projects, including the refurbishment of a water purification plant. Today, people still don’t have water. But wait, there’s more. Or less, if you like. In the same year – 2010 – the Bojanala District Municipality (under which Madibeng falls) started a R4 million feedlot project in Jericho, a village within its boundaries.

According to the Bojanala Municipality, the feedlot was completed and handed over to Madibeng. Yet despite this huge cost, the project has become another of the state’s white elephants. What makes it worse is that anyone with any grey matter can see immediately that the project could not possibly have cost more than R2 million at the most. Could this have been another way of making money disappear?

It’s hard to stay positive
In a recent letter to Farmer’s Weekly, the writer commented that there are many positive things our government is doing but are never reported on. I thought about this, and reflected that perhaps it was time to start looking for these good-news stories. I believe that they exist – somewhere. I really do!  But hardly a week had passed after receiving this letter when I came across this report on Madibeng by the Auditor-General.

The problem is that this maladministration and corruption affects the very people who are paying their hard-earned money for these services. People in Madibeng, many of whom are farmers, pay hefty rates and taxes, yet their money is simply draining away – and buying precious little as a result.

The only way to stop this looting of the public purse is to have a responsible government that holds its employees to account and deals harshly with any who are caught with their hands in the cookie jar. I’m not sure when the right people will finally be hired. But whoever it is should at least have passed woodwork and maths literacy!