Poor Municipalities fork out close to R4 million for outing?

Poverty stricken Municipalities of Alfred Nzo region are annually forking out close to R4 Million on average holding what they call strategic planning sessions in most expensive hotels of KwaZulu Natal. Ntabankulu , Matatiele , Mbizana, Umzimvubu Local Municipalities and even the Alfred Nzo District Municipality are spending days since the beginning of this week and in the beginning of next month conducting what they nickname as Strat plans. This is where they say they are planning projects for service delivery purposes. All this is done in most expensive areas of KwaZulu Natal, Umhlanga Rocks and Wild Coast area. In 2015 the African National Congress in Eastern Cape Province and in the Alfred Nzo Region instructed municipalities to stop spending Eastern Cape funds and spend in another province. But the municipalities defied their governing party from the very onset. The Matatiele Local Municipality is a leading municipality in as far as spending for a strategic planning sessions compared to other municipalities within Alfred Nzo. The Municipality will spend close to R1,5 million for staying for five days at one of the expensive hotels at Umhlanga Rocks in Durban. According to documents seen by the Informer the Municipality will be paying a sum of R924000.00 just for accommodation from the 10th to 15th of February 2019. The money may increase after the attendees are paid their travelling claims. Ntabankulu local Municipality was at Margate Hotel from the 17th to 19th of January paying a Hotel fee of R400 000.00. This amount is expected to increase considering that councillors and staff are still going to claim travelling costs. Mbizana was at Karadean Hotel from 16th to the 19th in the Wild Coast area paying a sum of R359 000.00. Umzimvubu paid R227,724,00 at Marine Parade garden court in Durban after spending two days while Alfred Nzo District Municipality is at Hilton hotel paying R468 000.00. All these municipalities have failed to justify this kind of expenditure in the face of glaring abject poverty especially in the rural areas of these towns. They did not even respond to a list of questions sent to them by The Informer concerning the matter. Spokesperson of the Ntabankulu Local Municipality Lixolile Petela on a lighter note, jokingly said they had their strate plan in one of the community halls at Macwerheni. He then said no comment. Meanwhile Mayor of Mbizana Local Municipality conceded that this is a very important and expensive exercise. This has resulted to them cutting down on a number of people attending their strat plans. “Only Exco Members and the Management who attended this year strat plan meaning they had to look to very strategic attendees to partake in their session. What then becomes a challenge is the amount and the manner in which service delivery protests have increased under these municipalities as a reflection and or sign that these strategic planning are not effective. Alfred Nzo Regional Secretary of the African National Congress Vukile Mhlelembana said the municipalities have tried giving reasons for them going to KwaZulu Natal and they accepted. Opposition parties in these municipalities have dubbed the strat plans as an outing. DA’s Wonga Potwana said they regard the strate plans as a way of stealing tax payer’s monies and outing for others. He said strat palns are used by some as time for shopping. “70% of what was discussed and agreed upon in 2018 strategic planning has not been implemented both by the District and Local Municipality. One glaring fact about these sessions is unprofessionalism, non-punctuality displayed by the political leadership and some officials, where they even fail to be on time and or attend these meetings though they have travelled. That tells you without any contradictions that this is a waste of time and public funds. We think we are going to reconsider our involvement in this next year“, said Potwana. The Informer talked to different councillors from these municipalities whom their response showed that to councillors strategic planning is just an outing. One councillor referred to this as a team building exercise whilst the other said she has attended many of these sessions but she has seen nothing important other than an opportunity to hold factional meetings (amahlathi) and shopping to others.

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