Now is the time to deliver – DA reacts to the budget

Ward 43 councillor Bruce Reid.

This is according to DA Shadow MMC for Finance and councillor in Boksburg, Bruce Reid, who delivered a speech in Katlehong 2 as part of a debate on the metro’s recent announcement of the budget.

“The metro has presented a very ambitious pro-poor budget, which we, as the DA applaud,” said Reid.

“We have to wonder if this a last attempt by a very fragile coalition to stay in power?

“We are spending over the National Treasury benchmark on upgrading and renewal of infrastructure. If we were spending the correct amount on maintenance, we would not find ourselves overspending,” said Reid.

ALSO READ: Ekurhuleni metro’s 2017/18 budget highlights

“Capital projects are falling behind schedule and some have failed to take off due to a lack of accountability among heads of departments.”

He said the progress on capital projects should be monitored on a monthly basis and evaluated to determine the value of final delivery.

“The MMCs must now hold the HODs accountable. This way, we will be able to ensure that departments keep to set time frames and budget allocations.

In the latest budget, the MMC for Finance promises to spend 100 per cent of the capital budget. These are strong words considering that the government has not achieved close to spending anywhere near that percentage.

“Currently, in the third quarter of the 2016/17 financial year, the metro has only spent 37.4 per cent of the capital budget hardly something to boast about.

“In the previous financial year the metro only achieved 74 per cent.”

He said the executive also continues to budget for higher and higher grants from provincial government.

“In December 2016, R345 million was returned as the metro was unable to spend it.

In a bold attempt to reduce the capital infrastructure backlog, the capital budget has been increased by 25 per cent. This, in itself, is a move in the right direction, in an attempt to re-move the estimated R85-b backlog in infrastructure.

“As the opposition we feel that funding R850-m of the capital budget out of revenue is not sustainable, while Ekurhuleni does not meet the National Treasury target for spending on maintenance of existing assets.

“The revenue should be spent on maintenance before new assets are built.

  • Houses

Reid said the mayoral committee’s plan to build 20 000 houses per year over the next five years to meet the mayor’s promise of a total of 100 000 houses during his term is unrealistic.

“This is an unrealistic target, considering that only 376 houses were built in the 2016/17 financial year. The mega-housing project, the Leeuwpoort development, will only provide 16 00 houses over a seven-year period.”

“In the City of Johannesburg and Tshwane, housing lists have been made. When will Ekurhuleni make public their housing list of 44 721 residents desperate for houses?

“There is a current estimate backlog of 421 657 houses in Ekurhuleni. Without taking growth into account, assuming the metro could build 20 000 houses per year it would take over 21 years to provide the houses.”

  • Empty promises

He said people are growing frustrated with empty promises.

“Just a few months ago, the MMC of Human Settlements, Lesiba Mpya witnessed protests by the Reiger Park community.

“One of our ward councillors almost had his own house burned down by community members demanding equal housing delivery. Our communities need delivery.

“To invoice the residents for services and then not collect the money places a huge burden on the residents who do pay their accounts.

  • Water losses

He lambasted the metro for recording water losses, with 30.6 per cent of the water unaccounted for.

“Was the ‘war on leaks campaign’ another watered-down PR exercise, like the mayor’s weekend special ‘Siyaqhuba campaign’?

“With the promise to spend R655 million on the electrification of all informal settlements, we caution the governing party to take preventative measures to ensure that those who consume the electricity pay for the consumption, so as not to put a further burden on the already overtaxed middle class.”

  • Unemployment

He said robust and aggressive policies to actively tackle unemployment and lure investment were needed.

“A billboard on the highway saying: ‘Come invest in Ekurhuleni’ will hardly entice business tycoons when our CBDs look like slums and our infrastructure is failing due to a lack of maintenance.

“The Aerotropolis concept is meant to cater for enterprises that make use of air transportation. With limited land available around the airport, the ANC has done nothing to incentivise industries that do not make use of the airport to move to other industrial areas.

“This exercise would attract investment and free up land where the targeted industries can thrive.”

  • Service delivery

He said the ability of the metro to deliver services is based on the staff complement.

“There are over 2 500 vacant posts in the metro. This affects service delivery and economic growth.

“We as the opposition believe this is a very ambitious budget and unattainable in the short term and we are certain that the government-led administration will not be able to implement it.

“The manifesto of empty promises must stop. In each quarter, we will demand to see performance and so will the people. Our residents are pleading for change and we as a government in waiting are ready to deliver that change.”

Riaan Engelbrecht

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