State of the Wards – Opening address by Councillor David Potter

Dear Residents and Stakeholders

A successful public feedback session was held last week Thursday with residents from across Ward 98, 99, 102 and 104 in attendance.

I had the opportunity of giving the opening address to give an update to all as to the “State of the City”.

Region B Cluster Ward Councillor Public Feedback Meeting – 9 March 2017
State of the City Report back by Councillor David Potter

Thank you Nicole for the welcome and for the opportunity of allowing me to address this meeting as to the State of the City.  A momentous election took place on 3 August 2016 where no political party won an outright majority.

The actual appointment of the Mayor, the Speaker and the Chief Whip of Council took place on the 23rd of August on a day of tense voting by all 260 Councillors, with the majority voting for a DA set of City Executive.

Following this, the Mayor appointed his “Board of Directors” being his Members of the Mayoral Committee made up of Councillors from the Democratic Alliance and the Inkata Freedom Party. The EFF chose not to take up any positions on Executive or Mayoral Committee but rather remain in opposition, however the EFF Councillors voted for the DA Mayor, Speaker and the Chief Whip of Council on 23 August 2016.

Since the 23rd of August 2016 it has been a rollercoaster ride, with many City ups and many City downs. Let me start off by saying this ride has not been easy. What the Mayor and the City has found in terms of maladministration, lack of performance and delivery, corruption and the like is huge. What we thought existed in terms of this, was just an oil drop of what was found post 23 August 2016.

At this point, I will summarise, just some of the challenges related to fraud, corruption and maladministration. This is just the tip of the ice berg and just some what it known in the public domain.

  • 7.5 million-rand fraud, theft and corruption at the Joburg Fresh Produce Market.
  • 9 Officials arrested on 28 February 2017 for theft, an investigation which had begun in November 2015, which had yielded little results.
  • Forensic Reports which had been concluded during the previous administration, which had not been actioned on.
  • Fraud has been uncovered at the Joburg Theatre.
  • JMPD has identified 106 corrupt officials across all City vehicle license centres.
  • One of the most senior officials in the Revenue Department has been suspended.
  • Multiple officials from the Sports and Recreation department are currently on suspension.
  • A forensic audit is currently being done on various tenders at City Power.
  • KMPG is working across the City conducting various forensic audits.
  • Multiple City Officials laptops and cellphones have been confiscated by forensic units.

Whilst I would love to stand up here and say all is good, such is sadly not the case.

Councillors across this City get calls, whatsapps and emails all day, every day about the perceived lack of service delivery. Whilst the residents are not wrong, what needs to be urgently and fully understood is that to turn a City around, that has a budget of some 52 billion rand annually, will take many, many months.

As much as you are frustrated about the lack or slowness of service delivery, to be honest, we are too. What is needed is a complete revisal of the City budgets, the way City Officials think and do and in fact a complete overhaul of how the City works.

You cannot expect something to change, if you keep doing it the way it did not work.

The City of Johannesburg has to operate within a highly regulated framework, and unlike a business, cannot easily just adjust a budget like many of you would do, to say your marketing budget monthly.

A municipality can only change their annual budget once in the financial year, at the mid point of such a year. The City of Johannesburg submitted their adjusted budget on the 23rd of February, which received full approval in Council. Whist this is not the ultimate budget, it certainly goes a long way in ensuring a better run and more focused City.

The large change of such a budget is the removal the previous administration’s legacy projects such as making bread from imported flour, teaching people how to use wifi, mushroom farming, turning concrete into paper (which has its own problems), and other such projects, which cost you, and I, the rate payers of this City hundreds of millions of rands.  Hundreds of millions of rands that could have rather gone towards attending to basic service delivery across the City.

The previous administrations Jozi@Work is currently being modified to remove the middle men, referred to as Capability Support Agents, agents who were made instant millionaires overnight!

Enough of the doom and gloom. Change is coming!

The City of Joburg is lucky to have an Executive Mayor that has an immediate and a business focus. I for one have never seen an Executive Mayor and officials running around, and running around fast. Officials that used to seldom reply to emails and messages that now, with renewed energy are willing to step forward and ensure a City that works.

For a moment, let’s go back to the adjusted budget that is for the period 28 February 2017 to end June 2017, which is the balance of the Cities financial year.  The Mayor titled his press release, “An adjustment budget for Johannesburg’s Forgotten People”.

  • 1841 housing units will be completed this financial year
  • 41 million rand allocated to the electrification of various informal settlements
  • 2 million rand allocated to the construction of homeless shelters in the City
  • 31 million rand allocated to the employment of an additional 1500 JMPD officers which will be deployed across the City, with some having a focus on traffic points-men duty
  • 6 million rand allocated to the re-cabling of key intersections in the City and the initiation of the ‘no join’ policy, which will, in time lessen the number of traffic signal faults.
  • 60 million-rand allocation to the Johannesburg Roads Agency for material for pothole repairs as well as a related 28 million rand for salaries to provide labour capacity for this operation.
  • 51 million rand for the purchase of additional busses for Metro Bus with 5 million rand for the refurbishment of the current fleet
  • 5 clinics across the City will have extended operating hours in addition to the Princess Clinic in Roodepoort that has had extended operating hours since around October last year.
  • the cities internal investigation unit lead by General Shadrack Sibiya will receive 38 million rand to capacitate and allow for further and much needed forensic investigations.
  • 5 million rand has been allocated for the completion of the City’s Skills audit

It is important to note that the above are only some of the adjustments, meant to serve some the City’s pressing needs over the next 4 months.

At the end of March 2017, the City will approve a full budget of around probably 52 billion rand to service the needs of the City under the new administration, with the Executives Mayor’s 10-point plan being at the forefront of such budget. I repeat, this will be the first full budget under new administration. The budget that the new administration received when they took over in August last year, was one that had been approved by the previous administration, with many, many expensive legacy projects.

It would be remiss of me not to discuss the absolute chaos with the revenue and billing department in the City.

This department has been under serious audit and investigation in the past few months and really only from 1 February 2017 seeing the change of staff that it so desperately required. Acting Directors of Revenue, Customer Interface, Billing and Credit Management were appointed on 1 February 2017. Much in the past 6 weeks has already been implemented, with for example the back office billing units being centralized for better monitoring and evaluation.

The Executive Mayor has visited all call centre’s across the City and was horrified at what he found. A sub team of City officials has been set up to address the severe concerns related to lack of leases, deplorable working conditions, equipment such as non functioning chairs and headsets, as well as non functioning lifts of a building that employs a number of people with disabilities and has 4 flights of stairs.

Many of you may have heard that the Council has approved the absorption of the more than 10 City entities to the Core of the City of Johannesburg. This is a positive move. A move that will take around 18 months to complete. At the end of this process, there will no longer be City Power, Joburg Water and the like. All these state owned City entities will become departments of the City, and report directly to the Executive Mayor and not to their board of directors, which is currently the case.

In another positive move, next week all City owned Companies will have their Annual General Meetings, which will provide an opportunity for these boards to get fresh thinking and energy. We look forward to seeing deadwood removed from these boards, in the interest of service delivery to the residents of this City.

I could go on and on, and talk about plans that City Power has to improve service delivery, about how new by-laws for outdoor advertising will soon be circulated for public comment and how JMPD plans to crack down on illegal dumping.

I as well as my colleagues here tonight are passionate about the City, passionate about service delivery and we need you to partner with us on this long rollercoaster ride. We all appreciate your contact with us, and ask that this contact is done in a manner that shows us as well as the Executive Mayor of this City some respect. Residents all too often send emails or whatsapp messages on the fly which includes hurls of unnecessary abuse.

We are all working many more hours than this “part time” job says we should. Yes, being a City Councillor is gazetted as being a part time job. As we work to restore the City, and your faith in Johannesburg, my colleagues and I are at present burning the midnight oil, holding the City Executive and the Officials to account for delivery. Delivery which as I have said, will take time and money.

There is no quick fix to the absolute chaos, maladministration, minimalistic budgets and the like that has been inherited. Please remain patient as we work to stirch this City back together.

Thank you for your attentiveness in understanding a little background and current status of the State of the City.

I will now hand over to my colleagues, who will update you on the State of their Wards.

Regards,

David Potter
Ward Councillor
City of Johannesburg, Ward 102
david@oursuburb.co.za | 0828859688 | @DavidCOJ102

Ward website: www.ward102.co.za

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