Not Christmas, but something close to it: Budget time!
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O!O Correspondent. Bitou. 27 May 2013. 20h00. Budget time.
And next year, as you all know by now, is an election year and happiness must be spread to the masses.
Say what you like about SA, we have some very good legislation especially when it comes to the management of public finances. Legislation such as the MFMA which requires that our municipalities publish their draft budgets for all to see and to comment on and that the necessary adjustments be made in light of the comments received.
The MFMA requires that every year the mayor must present a draft budget to council by end March, for adoption by council by the end of the merry month of May. That is in just 5 days; by close of business this Friday.
In order to solicit the necessary comments the availability of the draft budget or “2013/2014 Top Level service Delivery and Budget Implementation Plan” for Bitou Municipality was advertised as being “available for perusal” on Thursday, 23 May, allowing residents a full 7 days within which to study it and then submit their inputs and representations.
In his budget speech last year, Bitou’s Executive Mayor, Memory Booysen, explained as follows:
“As this budget constitutes the proposed financial plan for the next 3 years, it impacts on the community as a whole and it is thus extremely important to consult the community with a view to accept joint ownership and joint responsibility for the welfare of the municipality’s financial affairs. Consequently, a compulsory period of community liaison shall follow before the final approval of this budget on 31 May 2012. Inputs and representations shall be considered and the budget revised accordingly.”
The budget comprises nearly 400 pages of facts, figures, tables, graphs, policies, explanations, notes and opaque jargon. Just a cursory glance shows that the stated intention of allowing for public participation is not a sincere one. It is an impossibility to do what must be done in the time allowed.
One cannot help but wonder why, when the Mayor so obviously knows the law and the importance of the legally prescribed process, he makes it impossible.
All one can do at this stage is to just pick up here and there on some of the areas and issues that stand out as questionable and speculate.
Approximately 35% of the municipality’s operational budget is spent on personnel, so it is always a good place to look quickly at a major chunk of the budget.
2011/12 – 560
2012/13 – 481
2013/14 – 733
(A 52% increase)
2011/2012 – 41
2012/2013 – 47
2013/2014 – 217
(A 362% increase)
Many more contract employees are going to be employed this financial year. Why?
Well, it is an election year and the politicians promised jobs last time and must now deliver on that promise. When you are unemployed and destitute, a temporary job with the municipality organised for you by your councillor is of course a great motivator to support his/her party and to work to promote the party. Viva, DA, viva.
These are nothing but “political” positions not unlike the three contract positions in the Deputy Mayor’s office; created for no reason other than political expediency and paid for by the taxpayers.
This is the explanation offered:
“In order to ensure economic viability and to not overstretch the already limited financial resources, and cash management strategy vacancies have been significantly rationalized downwards.”
What does that mean?
What is a “cash management strategy vacancy”?
How do you “significantly rationalize” a “vacancy” “downwards”?
Perhaps, it means that to increase revenue, better care will be taken of the money and in order to do so all vacancies in the finance department have been filled?
“Only positions critical for service delivery have been budgeted for the 2013/2014 financial year.”
And then ominously:
“The cost to fill the newly approved organizational structure was determined and is at this stage unaffordable in the current financial context.”
So what does that mean?
Significantly higher rates increases in our future? And last year the Mayor told us, in no less than five mayoral letters that the organisational restructuring would deliver significant savings in future.
But what does this all amount to in rands and cents?
The total personnel costs (p 72 of the Draft Budget) are as follows:
2010/11…R90m (80% increase)
(increase of 13% yoy and 262% over 5 years)
What proportion of that do the bosses get?
And how is that made up?
Chief financial Officer:
HOD Community services:
HOD Corporate Services:
HOD Planning & Economic Development:
HOD Infrastructure Services:
Cast your mind back to 2011, around election time, and you will remember that our politicians made a big noise and many promises about how the high salaries of HOD’s, etc. would be reduced to more realistic and affordable levels.
It was their resolve that HOD’s would earn no more than R880k per annum and the MM an additional 15% or R1,012,000.
There was even an occasion when the Mayor turned down a very competent MM who was willing to take a salary of R1m per annum, claiming that the maximum affordable salary Bitou could pay its municipal manager was R880,000 and not a cent more.
And now the budget for HOD’s is 55% greater for salaries, and an MM is slotted at 58% above what council resolved and 82% more than what the mayor himself said was the affordable level.
We, the citizens of Bitou municipality are, to quote our mayor, “to accept joint ownership and joint responsibility for the welfare of the municipality’s financial affairs” through a budget that looks like this? And we haven’t even scratched the surface yet.
I wonder how many of the good citizens of Plett and the other towns in SA were aware of their right and duty to take part in the budgeting process?
I wonder how many other towns made it impossible for their citizens to do so?
I wonder how Bitou’s budget, and service charges in particular, compare to other municipalities?
I wonder, is this budget zero based or is it just a percentage game?
I wonder how many times you’ve been had
And I wonder how many plans have gone bad
I wonder and worry my friend
I wonder I wonder, wonder don’t you?
[Rodrigues. I wonder.]
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