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Gaining Community Trust

Mayor Afzul Rehman has been dubbed Mr Service Delivery by the local community. He believes his attentiveness to the financial affairs of the municipality has earned him this title. “When I accepted the position as acting mayor in early 2009 we were expected to present council with a draft budget almost immediately.” After analysing the previous year’s budget he found that R800 million was being spent on operations while only R68 million was going to capital infrastructure development. “If you looked at the need, R68 million was miniscule and this needed to be reformed.”
Rehman immediately embarked on a stringent cost-cutting exercise. “We visited each municipal department and examined expenses. We wanted to know why certain expenses were allowed to slip. For example, if we found a telephone bill of R5 000 and believed this was excessive, we asked for justification.”

The first budget he compiled increased capital infrastructure spending to R172 million simply by cutting unnecessary operational costs. The mayor named the budget, Speeding up Change. While it clearly identified the need to improve townships it was also important to retain the integrity of municipalities. “I saw a trend in other areas to allocate funds to informal settlement development at the expense of continued maintenance in residential areas. I did not want this to happen in our municipality.”

In 2010 the capital infrastructure spend was increased to R229 million, and the mayor dubbed this budget, Working Harder Faster. The following year it increased to R308 million and for the current year R380 million has been made available. “The budgets of the last few years show a steady increase in capital infrastructure spending. People appreciate the improved infrastructure – like electricity – because they can see and feel the difference it makes in their lives.”

Eskom could not provide electrical infrastructure quickly enough in some areas. “We entered into an agreement where we provide the investment capital needed to provide people with electricity and the utility agreed to reimburse us at a later date. It must be said that all of this was done without increasing rates and taxes beyond normal inflation and not a single loan was taken out.”

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