No cash for basic services, R11m for car hire
A KwaZulu-Natal municipality that was once so cash-strapped that its employees had to bring their own toilet paper to work has spent more than R11-million on luxury car hire over the past five years.
Replying to a parliamentary question from the DA, cooperative governance and traditional affairs MEC Nomusa Dube revealed that the Umgungundlovu district municipality spent ratepayers' money to hire 57 cars, including Mercedes Benzes, 4x4s and single-cab bakkies, from May 2007 to last month.
The municipality has a service level agreement to hire cars from the government garage's G-Fleet.
Most of the hired vehicles are part of the fleet that the municipality uses in providing its core functions of water and sanitation.
DA caucus leader Sizwe Mchunu said Dube's written reply stated that the cars were hired "in case there are problems with the municipal cars and to prevent disruption to service delivery".
"The reply further reveals that the municipality is unable to provide a cost breakdown for car hire during the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 financial years, allegedly because it did not have an automated system at the time.
"The same reply shows that the mayor [Yusuf Bhamjee] hired four vehicles, including Toyota 4x4s and Mercedes Benz Kompressors, allegedly because both his main and back-up vehicles had gone for servicing and panel beating and he needed to attend imbizos.
"The R11-million could be more as there are no figures for two financial years on hired cars," Mchunu said.
The cars were sometimes hired while the municipality-issued cars were being repaired, Dube said in her reply.
Some of the repairs took up to two months.
Two Mercedes E-class vehicles are used by the mayor and his deputy, Mamfucwana Zungu, and their back-up vehicles include VW Golf 5 GTIs.
The Mercedes have been in use since 2008, when Bhamjee replaced former mayor Bongi Sithole as the municipality slipped into near bankruptcy.
At the time municipal staff complained that there was no money to buy stationery such as paper for printers and photocopiers, and they were forced to bring their own toilet paper to work because the municipality could not afford to provide it.
"It is difficult to comprehend how a municipality that is failing to provide proper service delivery to its people can justify spending this kind of money on car hire," said Mchunu.
"The municipality has a fleet of vehicles which it is supposed to maintain in order to carry out its mandate, which is service to the people."
Mchunu said that it was unacceptable for ratepayers to pick up the exorbitant car-hire tab.