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Bobani administration already falling behind on Nelson Mandela Bay’s debts

Mayor Mongameli Bobani’s administration has hit the news again – this time for late payments according to News24.

Jackson Ngcelwane, Nelson Mandela Bay’s (NMB) acting chief financial officer, has written a letter expressing concern over how the municipality is paying its debts late.

The target for the municipality is to pay its debt within 19 days, however in September it took 38 days to pay its creditors, and in October it got worse – hitting 45 days.

Legally the municipality is supposed to pay its debts in 30 days.

The Creditor’s System Efficiency Ratio has also taken a knock – the target is 80%, but Bobani’s administration only achieved 64% and 55% for September and October respectively.

Bobani only came into office in August, so this represents his first two months in power.

Earlier this week Algoa FM reported that former mayor Athol Trollip has approached the public protector over financial irregularities within the Bobani administration.

According to that report NMB borrowed R700 million in order to expand its water and electricity infrastructure, but about R100 million is going into an unbudgeted housing scheme, and another R45 million is going into “festive events”.

Which is a fair bit up on the R4 million these events were originally budgeted at.

According to EWN the ACDP had laid a criminal complaint against Bobani’s administration over political interference in the actually running of the municipality at the end of November.

My Take

Bobani lacks legitimacy as a mayor.

He isn’t there because he won an election, he is there because the EFF is both racist, and unhappy with the DA’s unwillingness to support changes to section 25 of the constitution – expanding government’s ability to expropriate land without compensation.

Trollip wasn’t toppled because of his lack of performance, but because Malema decided that he would be the first coalition mayor to fall purely on the basis of his skin colour.

“Hahaha, you are going white man. I’ve got no sympathy for whiteness, it feels so good for a black child to determine the future of the white one,” Malema had said in March.

Because Bobani lacks legitimacy he needed to prove himself a competent care-taker as mayor. He was already up to a rocky start in September when he had to walk back his claim that his party wouldn’t provide services to rich areas, and it has only gotten worse since.

Late payment is actually a pretty serious problem with government. The thing is part of what we aim for with government is stimulating the economy by encouraging new businesses through tenders.

We want our government to favour smaller suppliers when it comes to contracts because that lets them get more established, and get past their initial teething phase when most business goes under.

The thing is these small businesses require reliable cash flows. If they get paid late, they end up paying their suppliers, or even their workers, late, which in turn creates a ripple effect of problems throughout the economy.

This is part of why we have such high joblessness in South Africa, the ANC has never been good at paying on time, so even if you get your money out of government it doesn’t do you much good if its months late and your creditors shut you down six months ago.

Just doing the very basics is a very important part of growing our government, and government dealing with cash flow issues like this is very, very basic.

It isn’t a point of political contention that government should pay its service providers on time, that shouldn’t be a campaign issue – and yet Bobani is failing in that regard.

Worse we’re seeing reports that instead of delivering lights and water – Bobani’s administration is spending massive amounts on Christmas parties.

I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that if you’re running a municipality you should celebrate when you’ve delivered the services, not before then.

There is a basic level of governance which is almost an ur-politics, it is stuff which a government should be capable of doing no matter what its overall policies are.

Competently paying its debts on time, spending its money on the things the money was budgeted towards and not spending it on other stuff, that’s not a matter of policy but just core competence.

If you cannot do that, it doesn’t really matter what the rest of your policies are because this is the sort of stuff you need to be able to do in order to enact anything else.

If you can’t pay your contractors on time, then you shouldn’t even be discussing nationalising anything because you’re already failing to do the job you’ve got, why are you looking to add to it?

And Bobani’s failure is the EFF’s failure as much as it is the UDM’s, because it was the EFF that insisted on Bobani. It was their decision, and so far it is not paying off.

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