Hard times turn “honourable” councilors into sponging couch crushers
by Basadi Morokotso
North West District councillors, who stay in villages outside Maun, have to sponge off relatives and crash on friends’ couches for several nights in order to attend council meetings because government is too broke to pay for their food and hotel accommodation – it has emerged.
NWDC councilors this week made a submission to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to reconsider making a provision for members’ travelling and subsistence allowances, which have been stopped as a result of lack of funds. They pointed out that most of them do not have accommodation in Maun so they are forced to crash with friends and relatives in order to attend committee and full council meetings. In the past, government used to issue imprests to enable them to source hotel accommodation.
The councilors requested that they should be treated in a way that befits honourable members so that they can keep up their poise before the people they represent. They argued that because of the size and hostile terrain of the district, they also incur huge costs related to the wear and tear of their vehicles.
They councilors pointed out that Ngamiland is a natural disaster area, which calls for a better allocation of funds to enable them to deal with its demands.
Discussing the 2014/2015 financial year budget proposals, Finance and Education Committee chairperson, Duncan Enga, said their budget performance for the past financial year shows over expenditure in most critical votes, and that in light of the constraints , service delivery in most Ngamiland communities was adversely affected.
As a result the council has had to reduce destitute food baskets allocated to needy people. Enga said their budget was reduced to 49.7 percent, and 46.7 and 40.9 in the 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 financial years respectively, which had a huge impact in the day to day running of council and service delivery.
“It can be concluded from the above that all efforts and expenses put into the original shopping basket budget exercise had no benefit at the end because of the approximately 50 percent cut on the original budget proposal. It is common knowledge amongst us seated here that we do not have as of now, any income generating initiatives to compliment the already low revenue collection levels. I am happy to announce at this point that there will be a recommendation to the full council for a blessing to come up with a committee whose main focus will be finding other income generating alternatives as well as on how we can improve our revenue base in order to relief the already fragile operating budget provision,” he said.
Their recurrent budget expenditure for the year 2014/2015 is estimated at P574 148 836 and composed of: council headquarters (NWDC) P63 341 650 (11 percent), Maun Administrative Authority at P 297 852 606 (51.87 percent), while Okavango Sub district stands to be comfortable with P212 954 580 (37.09 percent). Though not very certain if the above budget proposals will be approved, Enga said they are hopeful that at least some, if not all of them, will pass through. Most of the affected pending developments include the maintenance of security services, street lights, and internal roads, among others. Council facilities, such as clinics and schools, have not had any maintenance in a long time now because of financial constraints.