Newly-elected Tshwane mayor Randall Williams has announced measures to curb spending, which include cutting lunches from council meetings.
Less than a week after being elected as mayor following Tshwane being placed under administration and council dissolved earlier this year, Williams looked to take drastic measures as the City’s financials were in crisis.
“For more than seven months the City did not have political leadership or oversight over core operations,” Williams said during a media briefing on Thursday, where he elected the new mayoral committee.
“For the last few days I have immersed myself in getting briefed on all matters that pertain to the current operational status quo in the City.”
“What I have found has been disturbing.”
Williams said that under the team of administrators, appointed by the Gauteng provincial government after the City was placed under administration, Tshwane’s financial status had suffered immeasurably.
He said the administrators’ tenure was a “total disaster” when looking at the financial statements.
“In March when we were removed from office, we had a surplus, according to the CFO and Acting City Manager of R284 million; three months later by the end of June, it developed into a deficit of R4.4 billion,” Williams said.
The mayor also said the debtors book had increased by over R5 billion, which was ironic because the DA’s removal from the City was partly because of financial mismanagement.
“One of the examples they gave in court as an example of financial mismanagement, was our debtors’ book. They said our debtors’ book was completely out of control and we could not manage it.”
“In March when they removed us from office, the debtors’ book was standing at R13 billion, so they said they needed to take over the administration of the City so they could implement a financial recovery plan.”
Seven months later, the debtors’ book was now at R18 billion.
“The overall credit status of the city has been severely weakened after being downgraded.
“Operationally, the city is also limping.”
Williams did not comment on whether Covid-19 played a role in the spending, but said that the Finance MMC, Marie-Louise Fourie, would be looking into the deficit to see what the money was spent on.
Budget cuts and other measures announced
Williams said in order to stabilise the City’s finances, budgets had been cut across departments in order to provide frontline basic service delivery.
Spending on catering in the City would also cease and free lunches were over, the mayor said.
“No matter the length of the meeting or the formality of the engagement, the City will not be purchasing food.
“Events and conferences will have their budgets reduced and channelled to core service delivery. Where possible all such engagements will happen either in Tshwane House or online.”
Williams added that all international travel would be restricted and that the spending on consumables such as stationery and printing would be tightly controlled so that only core and necessary items are procured.
“Travel abroad will only be considered when funded be external partners or donors.”
These budgets would be reviewed with the intention of appropriating the funds to direct them to core service delivery.
Williams said he also wanted to enhance project management in the City by developing robust internal capacity to ensure city projects were completed.
Spending on consulting and contracted services would be significantly reduced as a result.
“I also intend to squeeze every drop of savings out of the City that I can, so that we can restore financial stability.”
“It will start with scrutinising all the spending that took place in the last seven months, along with implementation and tracking of a financial turnaround strategy.”
Williams further announced a 10 point service delivery intervention plan to be presented to the City’s top management.
This plan included:
- Prioritisation of the electrical grid and water infrastructure
- Implementing a robust Covid-19 management strategy
- Create a reliable waste and refuse removal service
- Provide stringent financial management and oversight
- Enhancing city safety and emergency services
- Promote employment and economic growth in the city
- Supporting the vulnerable and providing social relief
- Fast track development by cutting red tape
- Expansive financial cost cutting across city processes
- Maintain and expand road infrastructure
Williams also ordered that there be a full recall of staff, as City employees working from home during the Covid-19 lockdown had hampered service delivery.
“This instruction has been executed and already I have seen staff returning to the City,” Williams said.
“Aside from staff with serious medical conditions and co-morbidities, I want all City of Tshwane staff at their offices serving the residents of this city.
“All senior managers will be responsible for making sure their staff are at work, accounted for and doing their duties.
“It is time to get the capital city back to work.”