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Lack of council meetings throttles Joburg's oversight

There has been no open oversight on the city of Johannesburg’s tender processes by its full Council since July last year. 

Nor has there been any oversight on tender deviations approved by its city manager since then. 

This is demonstrated by the council agenda, which was meant to be discussed on Wednesday. The meeting failed to sit because there was no power in the council’s chambersdue to a faulty power transformer. 

The agenda lists 59 items, which are mostly performance assessment reports from its 25 departments and entities. 

These include the group finance department, which was meant to discuss supply chain management and bids considered by the adjudication committee between July 2022 to March.

Councillors were meant to discuss deviations and ratifications approved by the city manager since July 2022. 

The performance reports of crucial entities such as City Power, Joburg Water, Pikitup and the infrastructure, economic development and human settlements departments were also on the agenda. 

This as the city is battling water crisis, power outages, building hijacking and filthy streets. 

Speaker Colleen Makubelele said the information was incorrect but  she was unable to comment further.

The council sat in June and the meeting was meant to make up for April and May as there were no sitting, said DA chief whip Leah Knott.

There was no meeting in July and council sat in August, she said.

DA’s spokesperson on environment, infrastructure services Nicole van Dyk said committee meetings, which are meant to conduct more focused and immediate oversight, also did not sit regularly until a few months ago. 

“Since January, committees have not been meeting regularly. But four months ago, we’ve been sitting regularly but it doesn’t help that the past two sittings we’ve been reviewing reports that are quite far out of date.

“We need those quarterly [reports] to be up to date so that we can interrogate them properly and that report gets sidelined. All that ends up happening is that we don’t speak fully to the report...”

She said this made it difficult to hold officials to account.

Van Dyk said instead of focusing on proactive things like getting budget approved,  councillors were now “fire fighters and reacting to collapsing service delivery” issues.

She said during the meeting in August, they dealt with reports from January to March for some departments and entities.

In a memo circulated before the meeting this week, Makhubele said the sitting could not happen due to electrical faults and water outages at the Metro Centre building. The building caught fire on September 16.

“As a result, the use of the facility poses a health and safety risk for the attendees who include councillors, officials and the residents of the city. Suitable council facilities are unavailable on the said date and external facilities are too costly,” wrote Makhubele.

Sowetan understands that the council was informed that their transformer was faulty and they would have to fix it themselves.

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