GEORGE NEWS - George Council urgently needs to meet before the end of June to finalise official budget matters, but a meeting is highly unlikely to take place this week.
While both the adjustment budget for the current financial year (2019/2020) and the final budget for the next financial year (2020/2021) need to be tabled and adopted by 30 June, most of the opposition members either don't attend the meetings, or they leave before an item can be approved.
Although the DA enjoys the support of the FF Plus and ACDP, they are still two councillors short of a quorum of 27 and therefore need the opposition's presence to be able to legally hold a meeting. Three meeting attempts have failed over the past month.
Speaker Gerrit Pretorius confirmed on Monday that a legal process is underway to compel councillors to attend meetings.
Council's latest attempt to hold an e-council meeting took place last Friday, but due to some opposition members leaving the meeting twice, the adjustment budget for the current financial year (2019/2020) was not passed. This could have dire implications for the communities in Thembalethu.
According to Municipal Manager Trevor Botha, the most important item on the agenda was an amount of R82,127-million the municipality received from the Department of Transport. The municipality received the green light to transfer this money to Sanral, as a contribution to the widening of the Thembalethu bridge. This can only be done if the adjustment budget is approved by Council before the end of June. "If we don't do that, we lose the money," said Botha.
Although a quorum was established with the majority of the opposition parties initially on board, the ANC, PBI, SAC and EFF left the meeting twice, leaving Council one short of a quorum of 27 councillors. The FF Plus and ACDP supported the meeting.
Since the adjustment budget must be approved by the majority of Council and not just tabled, the item could not go through.
According to the opposition they are willing to play along, but certain matters they expected to be included on Friday's agenda, were omitted. They claim the DA is playing dirty, with ANC Councillor Langa Langa saying they will never trust the DA.
In March the DA agreed to incorporate projects on the opposition's R104-million wish list in the 2019/2020 adjustment budget, which included upgrades and services in various communities in George. The DA-ruled council was in need of four votes to pass the adjustment budget and agreed to the opposition's request.
However, none of the promised items were incorporated in Friday's agenda. "We compromised and we were in an agreement. We have not received the minutes of that [the previous] resolution. It makes it impossible for us to pave the way forward," said ANC Councillor Piet van der Hoven.
Acting chief financial officer Leon Wallace explained that this specific adjustment budget is a "special adjustment budget" where permission was given by National Treasury to address issues related to the Covid-19 pandemic. He said Van der Hoven's concerns will be addressed with the tabling of the 2020/2021 budget for the coming financial year. Mayor Leon van Wyk confirmed this, saying he has given the undertaking that the matters will be addressed in the main budget.
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