GEORGE NEWS - We often see children testing their balancing skills by walking on the narrow ridges of pavement kerbstones. With practice and confidence these achievements become more successful.
This balancing action within a narrow space is symbolic of how municipalities are expected to operate successfully within narrow margins.
Municipal legislation operates on the premise of narrow margins. Budgets of revenue and expenditure are balanced on the tiniest of surpluses. Supply chain processes follow a route of specification, evaluation and adjudication.
Appointments of staff follow a procedure defined by policy and legislation. Any deviation from a budgeted amount for a project is managed within prescribed rules. The forecast collection rate for debtors is set a year ahead.
These examples are mentioned to illustrate some of the requirements for success in local government. George has a proud history of successfully operating within such narrow margins.
Our residents have recently experienced lapses in refuse collection where collection schedules have not been met. This is the symptom indicating that the systems are not functioning within the narrow margins for success.
The allegations and investigations of maladministration at George Municipality over the past few years similarly indicate that the rules of operating within narrow margins had not been adhered to at some stage.
The appointment of Dr Michele Gratz as Acting Municipal Manager from the beginning of January 2021 signals that the "action" phase of fixing the causes of falling outside the narrow balancing margin is now being tackled.
Many of the problems had already previously been identified, but required a turnaround manager to fix them. In a very short period, issues have been identified and actioned for corrective action.
While some matters are "quick fixes", others will require detailed processes that need to be implemented with gradual improvements that will be experienced over time.
I am therefore confident that the service delivery lapses in refuse collection will be ironed out shortly in terms of labour matters and finalisation of tender processes, etc. Many other matters are receiving attention as we move to restore George's status of excellence.
The Covid-19 pandemic has in addition added another dimension of complexity to service delivery challenges within municipalities. At George Municipality, 204 staff members have to date been infected by Covid-19.
This means that one in seven of our employees have been sick and seven have succumbed. Some have been sick for periods of up to six weeks. Others have needed to remain in self-quarantine.
As a result of the required health precautions, there has been an impact on service delivery standards.
In the next few weeks, the municipality will be confirming measures already implemented to combat the negative financial effects of Covid-19.
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