Exco refuses to allow trips arranged without regard to cost-cutting

Msunduzi's executive committee has declined to approve three international trips for councillors and officials as they are not in line with the municipality’s cost containment strategy.

The reports on the trips to Malaysia, Vietnam and Germany were brought before the exco for its approval on Thursday.

The request was for permission to allow the manager for library services Mandla Ntombela and the chairperson for the community services Sphamandla Khumalo to travel to the International Federation of Library Associations in Malaysia next week.

Chairperson for the sustainable development portfolio committee Eunice Majola-Zondi and two senior officials have been invited to Germany for the fifth workshop of the South African German City Network next month.

The trip to Vietnam was for two officials and the deputy mayor Thobani Zuma for the factory acceptance testing for two electricity transformers that have been purchased to upgrade the Pine Street substation.

The exco members said they could not approve the trips as that would be in breach of the cost containment strategy adopted by council in January.

The strategy, which saw a ban on things like events and international trips, was adopted to reduce the City’s expenditure, which is reportedly higher than its revenue.

The councillors acknowledged that not all the costs for the trips would be borne by council, as they would either be partially funded by the hosts or a grant from national government, but said the ban on trips was not negotiable unless council states otherwise.

Chief executive officer and acting municipal manager Neli Ngcobo said even on the fully-funded trips council still has to pay the officials’ allowances.

She recommended that council should review the cost containment strategy on items that affect service delivery, but said they “can’t do anything without a council resolution on trips like these”. Her proposal was unanimously supported by councillors.

General manager for community services Boniwe Zulu said arrangements for the Malaysian trip had already started because it takes place next week. “You cannot organise an international trip a week before so if people don’t go there will be some cost to council because bookings and other arrangements, that now have to be cancelled, had already been made,” she said.

The DA’s Glenn McArthur said those who made the travel arrangements without the approval of exco or council should pay the cost for cancelling from their own pockets.