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Mangaung ordered to disband metro police

Staff Reporter

The Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has been ordered to dissolve its metro police service and to institute disciplinary procedures against officials who played a role in establishing the law-enforcement agency.

In a strongly worded letter, national treasury deputy director-general for intergovernmental relations Malijeng Ngqaleni ordered that any official involved in the process of setting up the metro police service, including members of the mayoral committee, should be subjected to a disciplinary process.

The letter, dated October 14, 2021, was sent to Mangaung acting city manager Sello More and copied to Free State Premier Sefora Ntombela, Treasury MEC Gadija Brown, Cooperative Governance MEC Mxolisi Dukwana as well as the provincial office of the Auditor General.

It ordered an immediate stop to all work relating to the establishment of the metro police.

More was also ordered to furnish national treasury with all documentation indicating the procedures followed.

“The national treasury has been consistent in its advice to the city that the metro police service should not be a priority, given its precarious financial and service delivery performance,” said Ngqaleni in the letter.

“This advice was shared with the city as early as when the metro announced the creation of chief of police position, and the subsequent appointment thereof and then, when this explicit disapproval was ignored, it was followed with same advice in every formal annual budget benchmark assessment and the mid-year budget and performance assessments since the 2017 financial year.”

Ngqaleni said national treasury cautioned the city over the years to manage its expenditure and prioritise basic service delivery of water, sanitation and waste management but the advice was largely ignored.

She said the municipality’s attitude largely contributed to the city then being placed under administration for financial performance challenges.

“The advice was always clear from the national treasury, and I want to re-iterate it here again to you as the newly appointed acting city manager that the establishment of the Mangaung Metro Police Service will exacerbate the current financial challenges and will undermine the purpose of the approved mandatory financial recovery plan.

“The city is failing to control its operating expenditure, poor revenue collection and failure in corporate governance,” she said.

Ngqaleni said even though the city is currently under administration, it has not demonstrated any improvement in the management of its operating budget, hence the need for the municipality to dedicate more time and effort towards the implementation of the financial recovery plan before committing to new projects that will burden the city financially.

“The message is simple: national treasury does not support the establishment of the metro police service at this stage and believes it to be not in support of the implementation of the Mandatory Financial Recovery Plan,” she said, adding the city needs a comprehensive, rigorous and fully costed organisational design that has been reviewed to be a best fit for a metro of its size and with its financial challenges.

Ngqaleni expressed disappointment that over the past two years of intervention, the national treasury team made a number of attempts to reach out to the city to ensure the creation of such a reviewed organisational design but was met with “what can only be explained as deliberate delays by officials”.

She pointed out that even Deputy President David Mabuza in his capacity as head of government business also instructed that all activities associated with the metro police service be stopped with immediate effect.

“. . . you are, as the acting accounting officer, directed to institute disciplinary procedures against everyone involved in this process including members of the mayoral committee in terms of the Municipal Finance Management Act, 2003 (Act No. 56 of 2003).

“Secondly, no payments nor any additions to the organisational establishments must be allowed under any circumstances.

“This letter serves to again (implore) you as the accounting officer of the metro to supply national treasury with all memorandums and reports . . . served at council which were the basis for the decision to establish the metro police.

“It is also critical that the said documents include the decision-making process on how the councillors of the metro voted on this item,” stated the letter.

This record, said Ngqaleni, will assist national treasury to have a clear picture of who is directly responsible for the decision to set up the metro police and who is liable for the expenditure incurred by the municipality.

She said in the event the Auditor General finds this expenditure fruitless and wasteful, the necessary recovery process should be effected.

“You are hereby advised to take the necessary steps to advise council to rescind this ill-advised decision as soon as practically possible and to timeously advise national treasury of the position of the metro within the next 14 days,” she ordered.

The directive, according to Ngqaleni, is not negotiable.

Civic organisation Mangaung Concerned Community (MCC) has welcomed national treasury’s decision to order the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality to abort the establishment of the metro police.

MCC spokesperson Temba Zweni told The Free Stater by telephone that they were relieved the government had finally taken steps to stop the controversial establishment of the metro police.

“We were pleasantly surprised,” said Zweni. “We were beginning to lose hope . . . but at least, reading that letter, it shows that government is serious about accountability.”

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