Moqhaka ‘needs to be stabilised’ financially

Lack of investor confidence, high vacancy rates, damning Auditor-General reports, and high Eskom debt are some of the issues the Moqhaka Local Municipality in the Free State is still grappling with.

This is according to Executive Mayor, Lucky Phooko. Speaking to OFM News on the state of the municipality, Phooko confirmed that addressing these challenges and bringing stability to the municipality is high on his list of priorities.

He confirms that his municipality was amongst the financially troubled Free State municipalities that were plagued by service delivery protests at the height of May 8 elections, and has vowed to address these issues. Phooko says although they are still battling with a number of issues, they are adhering to their payment plan with the power utility, have come up with a recovery plan and will soon appoint personnel in vacant positions.

“We are striving towards making sure that we stabilise our institution financially. As we speak our Financial Portfolio Committee sits every Tuesday with AG officials to guide us properly towards stabilising our institution” added Phooko.

The municipality, which houses towns such as Kroonstad and Viljoenskroon, recently came under scrutiny in the provincial legislature when Finance MEC, Gadija Brown, briefed National Council of Provinces’ (NCOP) members on distressed municipalities.

Brown revealed that this municipality is amongst those with extremely high vacancies, battling to generate revenue and provide services.

Tabling her report, Brown painted a bleak picture on the state of all municipalities in the province. She highlighted that municipalities in the Free State are collectively more than R3.8 billion indebted to water boards, and R9.75 billion to Eskom. This coupled with irregular expenditure that has escalated from R677 million to R913 million.

Phooko said that although they are amongst those owing Eskom, they are honouring their payment plan with the power utility and do not owe any water boards as they are fully in charge of water provision to their residents.

Phooko highlights that when he took office in May after the elections, he issued an instruction for all vacancies to be filled – and is confident that they will soon make appointments.

“We have advertised more than 50 vacancies and the Human Resource division is now of the process of shortlisting interviews. I am sure in a few weeks’ time we will be appointing capable men and women who possess particular skills and qualification to occupy those positions”.

Phooko says next on his short-term goals is to ensure that the municipality has adequate fleet to accelerate service delivery to residents.