Executive Mayor Leon Van Wyk, Part One of a regular letter to the citizens of George – the Mayoral Perspective
The George Municipality Council has experienced complex challenges during 2020 ranging from allegations of maladministration, to the sluggish economic conditions made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic, the resultant decline in service delivery standards and the turnaround underway to once again place George on a trajectory of clean government and governance.
In September 2019, three forensic investigations were launched into the allegations of maladministration at George by the Western Cape Government (“WCG”). They related to the “War on Waste” (“WoW”), the “construction of Nelson Mandela Boulevard” (“NMB”) and the appointments made in relation to the “Expanded Public Works Programme” (“EPWP”). A fourth investigation into certain Appointments is currently underway.
Shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown period commenced, the WoW report was tabled in Council with a recommendation that an independent disciplinary investigation into the actions of the implicated managers be undertaken. This report will be tabled before Council shortly. A separate investigation by the Priority Crimes Investigation Unit has resulted in the implicated officials appearing in Court to face criminal charges. At the end of October 2020, Council referred the NMB and EPWP investigation reports for disciplinary investigations by external professional firms as required by the Municipal Systems Act.
These investigations have no doubt been unsettling for the Administration and had an impact on the normal high standards of service delivery expected by George citizens. There are many dedicated, honest and loyal officials who have assisted in the efforts to restore clean administration. They have been granted the space to implement the necessary changes within the Community Services Directorate to effect a gradual improvement in the refuse collection service and the clearing of illegally dumped refuse.
During the past seven months, the Municipality has also had to manage the fall-out caused by the Covid-19 pandemic that resulted in the periodic closure of offices, staff being infected and sadly some staff members losing their lives. Over 137 soup kitchens were operated daily at the peak of the pandemic to provide thousands of servings per day to vulnerable members of our communities.
The negative financial effects of Covid-19 have resulted in a reduction in the payment of service accounts, sundry revenue, lower sales of bus tickets, and additional expenditure incurred to combat Covid-19. The debtors collection rate has reduced from a consistent 96% to an average of 91% per month since March 2020.
The impact on our economy and customer base and how the municipality will be dealing with these complex issues during the economic recovery phase will be dealt with in series of letters to the public of George from