“The computer made a mistake,” is an old, hoary excuse, but a computer’s ability is limited by the programmes it runs. Makana’s finance Dept uses a computer program called Abakus. It is of oriental origin (obviously) and marketed by an agent in Port Elizabeth.
Unfortunately is not able to present information in accordance with the Generally Recognised Accounting Principles, a requirement of the Municipal Financial Management Act. Thus a lot of what it presents is incomprehensible to the Auditor General and one suspects our own municipal staff.
A wise old owl on the Council (aka Cock Robin) a year or two ago asked, “Why don’t we just get rid of this man with his abacus and buy a computer program?” There was much hilarity, but many a true word is spoken in jest. He was commenting on the increasingly depressing reports from the Auditor General.
The Chief Financial Officer Jackson Ngcelwane went to a great deal of trouble, with his depleted staff – there are always vacant posts – to arrest the downward trend in the AG’s reports. A representative of the AG’s office was invited to run a workshop for staff but it took months to arrange a suitable date, by which time we were well into the next financial year, and the representative spoke in general terms rather than train staff.
Not a success. The following year he got a consultant from Abakus to be more specific at a workshop. He was as incomprehensible as his program and an approach to the principals in Japan was referred back to the agent. Back to square one.
But now it is crunch time. Jackson Ngcelwane was put on ‘precautionary suspension’ (no further information given) by the Municipal Manager before the new councillors took office. Now with Cllr Pierre Ranchhod as the new Portfolio Chairman of Finance the Municipality has called in experts from both the National and Provincial Treasuries to help sort out the mess for that is what it is.
If skin and hair are not flying in the local treasury, things have certainly hotted up! Some staff are reported to be unhappy but that is always the case when a new broom arrives. A consultant was called from Abakus and promptly lost a whole lot of vital information and there was no back up system.
The MM exploded and ordered him to FIND THAT INFORMATION which he managed to do after some time and then was chased out of the building and Abakus was told that he is never allowed to return. Good for our MM.
The MM has done some asking around and ascertained that only five municipalities in South Africa, three of them in the Eastern Cape, use Abakus and all have the same problems. Time to take Michael Whisson’s advice (above) but the Provincial Treasury now says we may not buy a new program till we have loaded all the information onto Abakus! Lord, have mercy upon us.
The sooner we “get rid of that man with his abacus” and tidy the whole thing up the better.
There is a niggardly worry that with all attention on the finance dept others could be drifting.
The GRA has written two strongly worded letters to the Mayor and Manager about the deplorable state of our roads and a letter to Grocott’s. There is no need to elaborate on that topic other than to add that we have no intention of giving up. The bull terrier approach: once it bites it does not let go.
Since a month before the elections in May, municipal meeting times have frankly been chaotic. We almost seem to be governed on an ad hoc basis. Published schedules of meetings, in spite of frequent amendments, have become meaningless and GRA monitors, all eight of us, have been plagued by arriving for a meeting and finding nothing happening. Enquiries eventually reveal that the meeting has been postponed and nobody is able to give the new date. Later we sometimes hear on the grapevine that the meeting did take place.
Covers of municipal meetings all state boldly that by law Council and Portfolio meetings, with one understandable exception, and open to the public and media. This is to ensure TRANSPARENCY which is a basic tenet of democracy and accountable good governance.
But when bureaucratic bungling makes monitoring of meetings frustratingly difficult, that cannot be described as good governance. Council meetings are usually advertised in Grocott’s, but the rub comes in the Portfolio meetings. They should be (and used to be ) held monthly to check reports of work done and that money allocated for specific tasks is being spent correctly.
They were changed to six weekly because there was so often no quorum of councillors. They lost the plot and now nobody can predict exactly when these meetings are going to be held! Come off it. What an example to set for municipal workers and no wonder the National Treasury is furious because Makana has not spent the money it requested and was granted for capital projects. 2012 New Year’s Resolution: Monthly Portfolio meetings and stick to the timetable.
And another thing: meetings that drag on for five hours (there have been some of them) are useless. Who can concentrate on people talking for five hours at a stretch? Municipal meetings are not talk shops. They are there to do a job. Cut the unnecessary waffle, discuss the point, no repetition allowed, and TAKE A DECISION.
That means voting, even if there is consensus as there usually is. BUT that means that decision is final and the Executive know where they stand and what to do. Get on with the job. Talking till conversation runs dry and then moving on to the next item of the agenda leaves every thing in limbo.
When is the contract with Amatola Water going to be signed? We do not have the personnel with the expertise to handle the sophisticated Sulzer pumps which get our water from dam to purification works to supply reservoirs. (This has been proved many times over some years.)
It was agreed to outsource this to Amatola Water; a Government owned entity of highly educated, skilled, qualified people set up to help Eastern Cape municipalities with their water problems. Amatola agreed; the contract was drawn up and all that was needed was the MM’s signature.
The some members of Council started quibbling. Now it’s backwards and forwards again and we have water in the dam but an unreliable supply in Grahamstown. TAKE A DECISION and stick to it. We want water.
We wish to thank the Municipality for lifting the drought induced water restrictions.