ENCA: Oudtshoorn in financial crisis, but Cango Caves 'stable'

Councillors in the Oudtshoorn municipality are once again voting on their R500-million budget, which has already been tabled three times before and blocked each time by the DA-led coalition, said municipal spokesperson Ntobeko Mangqwengqwe.

Mangqwengqwe confirmed to eNCA on Thursday: “We will be voting again – all 25 councillors and wards will be at the meeting to vote on the budget." According to media reports, the trouble started two years ago when the DA and its coalition partners became the majority, but the ANC refused to relinquish power.

The DA is now awaiting a court ruling on whether they can lawfully take control of the municipality. Many fear that if nothing is done to break the political deadlock, the municipality will once again fall behind on its payments and struggle to provide basic services. This comes amid reports of maintenance issues at the renowned Cango Caves, which the municipality denies.

In a statement the municipality said: “The Cango Caves is not in a financial crisis; instead it enjoys financial security that is regulated by the Municipal Finance Management Act 56 of 2003.” The statement comes after Cango Caves general manager Hein Gerstner told a radio station on Tuesday that R16-million of the World Heritage Site's funds were unaccounted for. He said after a contractor had fitted lighting at the caves, they were still owed R3-million by the municipality.

But the municipality claims it only owed the contractor R350,000 and had already paid R3,5m. In the statement, it said: "The R16-million funds reallocated to Oudtshoorn was not done in error. It was due to the fact that a long outstanding loan payable to Oudtshoorn by the Cango Caves was written off in error during 2008. This was deemed to be an incorrect accounting entry and as such corrected in the annual financial statements for the year ended 30 June 2014.

"The transfer of the funds, as well as the accounting entries relating to this matter, was scrutinised by the auditor general, and no (adverse) findings were made in their report," it added. But Western Cape Finance MEC Ivan Meyer told eNCA: “Oudtshoorn municipality is facing a constitutional and political crisis. Currently, they are now also experiencing a financial crisis because Oudtshoorn municipality has failed to pass the budget.” Watch the video and read more here