As the Gauteng province bows under the weight of a housing crisis, its three metros are yet to spend almost R2bn meant to improve the living conditions of millions of residents.
A report seen by City Press placed Ekurhuleni – the industrial capital of the province – at the top of the list of the three prized municipalities, the priority areas of which include land acquisition to help national government deliver on its mandate.
But, as of February this year, ANC-led Ekurhuleni had spent only R820m of the R1.9bn allocated by Treasury through the urban settlements development grant.
Trailing second behind Ekurhuleni is the DA coalition-led City of Johannesburg, which spent R618m of the R1.8bn awarded from this grant which is intended to alleviate the pressures of rapid urbanisiation, particularly within the metropolitan municipality.
Urban reform is one of the key priorities outlined in the National Development Plan to overcome the legacy of apartheid spatial planning and this grant gives municipalities some muscle to deal with housing issues, improved access to water, sanitation and electricity, among other delivery targets.
The capital city of Tshwane, governed through a DA coalition, spent R537m of its R1.5bn from its urban reform grant.
This means the three metros will in the next six weeks – before the end of the 2017/18 financial year – scramble to try to spend the remainder of their much-needed grants.
Should the money not be spent by next month, it is likely that Treasury will take it back and allocate less in the next financial year.
In response to questions on failures to fully utilise the grants awarded to them, the cities of Johannesburg and Tshwane would not comment, insisting that the hundreds of millions would be spent by June.
In recent weeks DA mayor of Johannesburg Herman Mashaba lamented a lack of funds to provide services, such as the electrification of informal settlements, saying that a huge portion of money had been stolen through corrupt practice by the previous administration under the ANC government.
Mashaba admitted he would not be able to deliver fully on his mandate in five years, saying he needed more time and more money.
The City of Johannesburg member of the mayoral committee (MMC) for finance Funzela Ngobeni claimed more money from the grant was already being spent, bringing the City’s expenditure almost close to that of Ekurhuleni at R830m. On the other hand, Tshwane MMC for finance echoed a similar sentiment that its expenditure had, since the gazetting of the urban settlements development grant, doubled to R1.1bn.
Lesiba Mpya, MMC for human settlements in the city of Ekurhuleni – which received the lion’s share of the grant – told City Press that a number of challenges had held up spending the grant.
These hurdles included ongoing community protests which led to projects being halted, legal challenges from big business that was apprehensive about housing projects devaluing their business, as well as red tape pertaining to environmental impact assessments.
“They would say the land is dolomitic even when we have geotech reports. So all of those bureaucracies and those impediments are the ones stifling the process going forward,” Mpya said.
He insisted that the R1.1bn yet to be spent would be spent by the end of the financial year, saying that the city had a good track record in spending the urban settlements development grant.
“We are going to spend 90% and more because we received recovery plans. I called all project managers and all contractors. They gave me acceleration plans and I presented them to the executive mayor. These were also shown to the city manager for technical input. They make sense. Projects are rolling, they are on the ground and the bottlenecks are unblocked. I’m certain we are going to achieve that 90%,” he said.
“You can put me to the test, Ekurhuleni in the 20016/17 spent 97% of its grant and that’s why Treasury was able to give us money from the cities of Cape Town and Johannesburg that was not spent,” Mpya said.
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