Budgets remain unspent as Msukaligwa region crumbles

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GK CRONJE

1 March 2022

A project of a New Ermelo Primary School, sits at 22% progress. EFF councillors, however, raised the question as to why new schools are being built while the existing schools are literally falling apart.

On Friday, 18 February 2022, Msukaligwa Local Municipality (MLM) presented their integrated development plan (IDP) to ward councillors, private and public sectors, and all interested parties. Various departments were present during the day, en provided updates on the progress of the projects. The meeting launched with roughly fifty individuals present, but in less than an hour the numbers dwindled to approximately twenty. The budget presentations from various departments was nothing to write home about, with a large amount of the various budgets not utilized despite the Msukaligwa boundaries being rife with shoddy roads, electrical infrastructure issues, water supply and sewerage network issues and more.

The Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG), with an allocated amount of R55 million, which aims to eradicate municipal infrastructure backlogs in poor communities to ensure the provision of basic services such as water, sanitation and electricity, has an expenditure of 44%. Thus, nearly half of the grant had not been utilized, despite poor households facing a daily struggle with basic services. Water Services Infrastructure Grant (WSIG), with an allocated amount of R50 million, is a conditional grant, providing funding to municipalities for the purpose of achieving water supply goals. Ermelo, Breyten, Wesselton and Chrissiesmeer experience water issues on a daily basis, with dilapidated network infrastructure and non-functional pumps being a major contributor. Some residents in Breyten and Chrissiesmeer has been left without potable water and sporadically dry taps for nearly a year. Alarmingly, Msukaligwa Local Municipality (MLM) had only spent 32% of the allocated funds, begging the question as to why residents are suffering as they are. The biggest question mark is the Integrated National Electrification (INEP) grant, with an allocated amount of R10 million, which provides capital subsidies to the municipality to address the electrification backlog of permanently occupied households.

This grant had only been 6% spent. This means that the dilapidated infrastructure, and the myriads of households which are not electrified, is a direct result of MLM grossly underutilizing funds. Of MLM’s own budget, a mere 34% had been spent. While Ermelo and the surrounding areas crumble, with businesses and residents digging into their own pockets to repair roads and potholes, having to hire private contractors to repair street lights, and an overall lack of basic service delivery due to “a shoestring budget”, as stated by the municipality, the entity sits on over R10 million of unspent funds, with an allocated amount of R16 million. A mere 34% had been utilized. The Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) has been instated for creating work opportunities in public environment. For instance, employment opportunities for locals can be created by assigning, as an example, maintenance of roadsides, parks, public spaces and more. This is one example of the many roles which can be assigned to EPWP employees. Of an allocated R2 million, only 34% had been spent.

A project of a New Ermelo Primary School, sits at 22% progress. EFF councillors, however, raised the question as to why new schools are being built while the existing schools are literally falling apart. There is no provision for maintenance from neither municipality nor provincial department. The Department of Sports and Culture announced a new library that is planned for Ermelo, at a cost of R20 million. This had the feathers of councillors ruffled, as the existing libraries are neglected, yet, another library is to be constructed. The Ermelo library is grossly neglected, and the need for an additional library was put into question. This will simply put yet another expenditure on the plate of MLM in terms of upkeep and maintenance. Good news is that both Davel and Waburton will see new libraries built, with the same amount budgeted for each. Funds have been allocated for the maintenance of Cassim Park library.

Most troubling is the fact that a number of ward councillors left mid-meeting without asking questions, providing input or highlighting issues within their wards. This wholly defeats the purpose of being a representative of a ward within Ermelo, as issues are not addressed or highlighted by the responsible ward councillors. Notably, the EFF and ACDP were present during the entirety of the meeting, and raised various concerns and issues within the community. You may see uploaded documents detailing the budgets, projects and expenditures on our Facebook page, Tribune Ermelo.