City of Joburg council feasts on our dime
Huge catering bills as City of Joburg awards themselves salary increases. ‘Should they reward themselves while their people strain financially?
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City of Joburg councillors last week approved a motion to increase their salaries, while a feast, usually
costing Johannesburg taxpayers R360 000 to R390 000 was spread out for them.
Last Tuesday, all but the Economic Freedom Fighters and ActionSA approved a motion to increase their salaries. This comes amid tariff hikes of two percent for property, 9.3% for water and sanitation, an electricity tariff hike of 14.97% and a refuse tariff increase of seven percent.
The upper limits of the annual remuneration packages of full-time councillors mean Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda’s salary will increase from R1 446 388 to R1 501 351.
Council speaker Colleen Makhubele will earn R1 212 520 (previously R1 168 131), while a
member of the executive committee, mayoral committee or whip will get R1 142 175 (previously
R1 100 361).
The chair of the oversight committee will now get R1 108 670 (previously R1 068 083).
“These figures are only valid if council sits only once a month,” said a source who spoke on condition of anonymity. “However, if council sits two or three times a month, those figures apply per day.
“For example, the last sitting we had was for two or three days but that’s not normal. It is safer to
work on the once-a-month meetings.
“It’s well over R4.6 million a year, taking into account there might be more than one meeting (a month),” they said.
“It’s not tied to those breakdown figures because the budget is more than the sitting each month, just in case of the special meetings that take place.
“I can’t say exactly how much it is but it could possibly be R5 million-plus for a year.”
The source said the Joburg Theatre was responsible for the catering at council meetings.
Political analyst Prof Sipho Seepe said what was happening in the council did not look good. People were not opposed to a reward when they brought positive change, he said. But, “when you
have collapsing infrastructure, the level of crime we see, the degradation of our roads and the people who are supposed (prevent it) reward themselves, then it doesn’t send a good message”.
“An increment in one’s salary must also be matched by good performance which we do not see,” he said.
“It feeds into the narrative that these guys are only in government to get the money.
“It would be nicer if the increment was also met by good performance. At the moment, you will
not be able to make an argument.
“As much as we understand the cost of living continues (to rise), we must also put the issue of services as the most paramount.”
Seepe questioned what message the council was sending to residents with the amount of money spent on food.
“You need to understand that there are people who go to work and are not given those freebies,
and here you are getting this.
“People see it as wastage because even those meetings they appear at till late do not seem to
translate into something (actionable) so they can say they understand why these guys are having these long meetings,” he said.
Political economy analyst Daniel Silke said councillors were entitled to pay raises which should be in line with public servants. If councillors were humble, they would make a point of taking a lower salary increase to provide some public relations for an embattled council.
“I don’t expect people to do that because they need to be remunerated; they have costs, too, and also you want to attract better people into a city council or public service, so you do need to offer salaries that are reasonably comparative,” he said.
He said he was concerned about the performance of the council. “Their own taxes have been undermined by the helpless nature of councils, the instability.
“New administrations every couple of months, new mayors every couple of months, a bureaucracy that doesn’t know whether it is going left or right, given the fact it has got different pressures of all the times when changes of government take place.
“If they are looking for goodwill from the electorate, then they should be careful in what they take in terms of perks. They should pare it down.
“Take a salary increase if that’s necessary but spending on additional features, luxuries and
other things should be abolished until there is stability in the council.”
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