A council meeting went sour in Johannesburg after Democratic Alliance (DA) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) councillors walked out of a council sitting after the ANC-led administration dodged tough questions and failed to give a comprehensive report on Covid-19 expenditure.
The city’s’ official opposition party accused ANC officials of deferring accountability to Johannesburg residents on how much was spent by the city, and on what, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Though a report on Covid-19 expenditure was presented, councillors complained that it was incomplete, prompting Speaker Nonceba Molwele to suggest the withdrawal of the report until a complete one was was obtained.
According to DA caucus leader Leigh Knott, the party “still doesn’t know just how more than R600 million of expenditure has been justified”. This despite a council resolution requiring detailed weekly reports, a PAIA (Promotion of Access to Information Act) application, direct questions to the mayor in council, and requests from all oversight committees.
On Thursday morning, another council meeting was convened, and mayor Geoff Makhubo’s office was unreachable. The media understands a planned ANC caucus meeting would begin at 11.30am. It was not clear whether the report had been discussed at the time of going to publication.
Knott lamented how little the city had revealed about where and how monies were spent.
She said “We don’t know how city buildings have been sanitised or how much this has cost, how the department of economic development is assisting informal traders and SMMEs, why city officials were not issued with masks in time due to contract irregularities, or what the plan is for dealing with increased homeless people across the city”.
Knott added that Wembley Stadium tent village which was supposed to provide shelter for 1 200 people was to date, only occupied by 54, while the cost of the project had not been revealed. This despite the contract being flagged as irregular.
The frustrated caucus said a list of personal protective equipment (PPE) donations received did not contain details and different reports about the same projects were recorded with vastly different costs.
A ststement said “Municipal entities go from spending R4 million in one report and in the next R0, and when questioned in committee claim that they only spent R50 000”.
Turning their attention to the alleged widespread of disconnections for owing residents during Alert Level 3 lockdown, Knott pointed out the city’s failure to collect debt owed to it by provincial and government departments, which were close to R1 billion, with more than R500 million of this past the 90-day mark.