POLITICIANS are sending Buffalo City Municipality to the brink of collapse, forcing skilled employees out of key jobs and installing cronies with little or no experience.
Several city officials and former managers this week said staff morale had plunged to an all-time low because of political interference by councillors and poor leadership. Five of eight director positions are still vacant, the latest being that of former municipal manager Gaster Sharpley, who resigned this week.
As a result, the municipality is facing a huge infrastructure backlog of about R1.8 billion.
The city’s chief financial officer Brian Shepherd is still on suspension.
Over the years, BCM has lost many of its top officials such as engineering services director Shaun Peard, engineer Leon Schultz, development planning director Craig Sam and corporate services’ director Wendy Maqekeza-Galada, who resigned amid a tender scandal.B
BCM spokesperson Samkelo Ngwenya said the city was addressing the high number of vacancies in the municipality’s hierarchy. “We have put in place a plan to urgently address the recruitment backlogs. Already, processes of filling the posts for three directors, namely the chief operations officer, engineering services and community services are well in advance.”
But until this happens, service delivery and infrastructure development suffer. It has emerged that BCM has spent only 11 percent of its R902million approved budget six months into the financial year. An insider said BCM was also facing heavy financial penalties over its unused R
250m loan from the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) last year to fix and replace its aging bulk infrastructure. The Saturday Dispatch understands that DBSA has engaged BCM in discussions about possible penalties.
R8, 1 (SUBS:CORR) million for upgrading roads l
R3, 4 (SUBS:CORR) million for water in Kidd’s Beach area l
R2 (SUBS:CORR) million for electrification in Kidd’s Beach remains untouched
The shocking state of affairs may have been what prompted Minister for Provincial and Local Government Sicelo Shiceka last week to promise a crackdown on some Eastern Cape councils, including BCM.
Now, after assessing its problems, BCM has sought the services of Shiceka’s department. “The DPLG was requested to devise a possible support package that includes the private sector,” said Ngwenya. Les Holbrook, executive director of the Border-Kei Chamber of Business, said they were concerned with the status quo because people in acting positions had a natural tendency not to make critical decisions. “We are concerned by the exodus of skills within the technical and administration side.
They need to start putting in place a retention policy, succession plan and other things to keep staff and ensure vacancies are properly occupied.”
An ex-senior staffer said the common joke in the city’s corridors was that BCM was “Hollywood by the beach, where there were more actors than permanent appointees”.
Another former senior manager, who has been with BCM for 18 years, said advertised posts were commonly filled with cronies. “
In any recruitment panel sit three councillors and two (municipal) officials. As a result, the councillors always overrule the officials. Sometimes people who are not qualified or are inexperienced get appointed because they are friends with the politicians.