Over recent weeks there have been photos of the recent floods in Tshwane and elsewhere where rivers have flooded their banks, into towns and settlements seriously damaging infrastructure and property. This summer season has seen a deluge of rain that has unfortunately wreaked much damage to infrastructure across our country.
These floods come as a reminder of the rain and floods witnessed in George over November and December. The Council will shortly be considering how to undertake the rebuilding, repairs and maintenance of damaged infrastructure, the timing, and the funding thereof.
The damage in George and surrounding areas runs into hundreds of millions of rand with claims being made for disaster relief funding. Until such funding is made available, it is essential that repairs are undertaken. There is much damage to roads, sidewalks, river courses, water, sanitation, and associated infrastructure. Ideally, repairs should be undertaken as soon as possible to prevent further damage from taking place, for example, potholes that remain unrepaired cause further damage to the road surface.
Municipalities prepare their annual budgets by March for the year ahead of July based on projects and spending categories already identified the year ahead of that budget. The damage from the recent storms will therefore place strain on municipal budgets in the last few months of the current financial year as efforts are made to prioritise this spending within the current financial year. These repairs will also impact planned projects in the new financial year. Even though George’s finances are sound, careful consideration will be required on the timing of incurring this expenditure.
The refurbishment of ageing infrastructure is one of the major challenges facing local government. Over the past few decades, too little has been spent on maintaining water, sanitation, electricity, and roads infrastructure. The expectations of core and unfunded services to be delivered by municipalities has strangled their budgets leaving insufficient funding for repairs and maintenance.
The recommendation of the National Treasury is that municipalities should annually budget and spend 8% of their recorded value of property, plant and equipment on repairs and maintenance. In practical terms, this level of spending has proved to be unaffordable for municipalities as it would have resulted in considerable increases in service charges and tariffs for consumers.
The local government has argued for many years that this sector should be receiving considerably more by way of grants which could inter alia have contributed to infrastructure maintenance.
In George, we recognise that infrastructure is ageing, and the emphasis is now on ensuring that annual expenditure is increased to maintain and refurbish infrastructure. We are aware that investment will be undertaken where the infrastructure is maintained to a high standard.
Cllr. L van Wyk