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MBDA COVID-19 response a game changer

The Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) is an entity of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality (NMBM), founded in 2003 and is overseen by a Council appointed independent Board of Directors. Since inception, as one of first agencies to be established nationally, the MBDA has had to navigate unchartered waters and in many instances, through unconventional methods, discovered new ways and approaches to socio-economic development. All that experience would come to bear in navigating the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The MBDA, like all Municipalities and Municipal entities is governed by several pieces of legislation including the Municipal Systems Act in terms of structure and governance. The entity is subject to the Municipal Finance Management Act in terms of financial management and supply chain processes. These two pieces of legislation are complimented by the Companies Act and the King Code of Good Governance Principles for South Africa. With all that in place, the MBDA has pioneered a legacy of clean and unqualified audit outcomes by the Auditor General of South Africa since the MFMA was enacted. This entrenched legacy can be attributed to the deep culture of respect for the law, uncompromising commitment to accountability and good stewardship of public resources. This we believe is what sets the record of the MBDA apart and continues to do so. When Covid-19 struck, on 15 March 2020, the designated Minister declared a national state of disaster in terms of the Disaster Management Act, 57 of 2002 pursuant to which what has become known as ‘a national lockdown’ was instituted with effect from 26 March 2020 for an initial period of three weeks. The initial level of lockdown was extended by two weeks, where after there has been several regulatory adjustments to expand the activities permitted under the state of disaster. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on South Africa, not only at the level of its economy but also on its citizens. The extent of this effect on struggling South Africans has been displayed in the media and is plain for all to see. The strategy and response plan of the Government is given effect to by way of regulation, made primarily in terms of the DMA but also in terms of other statutory empowering provisions including the Local Government: Municipal Finance Management Act, 2003 (“the MFMA”). Not only do such provisions regulate essential and permitted activities and the restriction of movement, but they also impose obligations on the structures of all levels of government including state owned entities and public and municipal entities to restructure their budgets and to allocate funds and resources to achieve the objects of the overall national strategy. This obligation applies also to the MBDA which was required to adjust its budget if possible to free up funding for appropriate allocation in pursuit of the national effort. In the event, this was achieved by identifying funds provided for on the capital budget but which were unlikely to be expended in the 2020 capital year and adjusting the budget to allocate such funds to the Covid-19 Relief Intervention Fund on the operating budget. The call from Government was clearly spelled out in Regulations i.e. Institutions should make funding available; and far as possible, without affecting service delivery in relation to the realisation of the rights contemplated in Sections 26 – 29 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, shift funding, within its budget to implement these regulations or directions issued in terms of Section 27(1) of the Act, regarding the National State of Disaster. Further Regulations provided Municipal entities to ensure that during the initial 21 day lockdown period, or any extended period of lockdown that may be declared, notwithstanding any requirements in terms of any systems of delegation of municipalities, decision making that would have required the approval of Council Committees, Mayoral or Executive Committees, will be made by the Accounting Officer of the entity on a written recommendation of the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and with approval or concurrence of the chairperson of the Board of the entity. In responding to the obligations imposed on the MBDA by the Regulations and the Further Regulations, the Chief Financial Officer reviewed the budget and budget spending to that date and determined that an amount of R4 500 000-00 provided for on the capital budget for the acquisition of an immovable property would not be spent during the 2020 financial year and was accordingly available to be used for the intended purpose. The CFO accordingly proposed that the budget be adjusted by moving the aforesaid provision to fund the Covid-19 response provisions in the operating budget. The CFO accordingly submitted a report to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) including a recommendation to the aforesaid effect with the concurrence of the chairperson of the Board. Further to complying with the provisions in the Regulations, the Management also applied the principles contained in the MBDA’s Corporate Social Investment Policy, which had been approved by the board earlier in March. Once the processes were concluded, the MBDA could make the provision of grants to selected organisations for the purposes of implementing the intended purposes of the funding and for effective monitoring of expenditure and implementation. The MBDA has in the recent past developed meaningful and cooperative partnerships across sectors and communities where the Agency operates. We know that we can do a lot more with less through working with others in a collaborative way. The NGO’s and Industry bodies across the Bay, all fulfil a different but complimentary role to that of the MBDA. It therefore makes no commercial or social sense for the MBDA to try to occupy the same space, but to rather collaborate and cooperate for the benefit of society, the citizens who are responsible for our existence. The organisations selected as recipients of the grants were selected following the submission of proposals for the utilisation thereof and were vetted to ensure that the MBDA was consistent in the implementation of its mandate. In each case, a comprehensive agreement providing for such expenditure, record keeping, and reporting is on-going. Was providing legitimate and much needed Covid-19 community relief under a strictly regulated environment a difficult process? The answer is no. The MBDA has internalized a culture of accountability, integrity, and compliance in dealing with public funds. The entity’s unblemished record of clean and unqualified audits bears testament to this heritage. Instead we are pleased MBDA COVID-19 response a game changer to see the painstaking work deliver fruitful results. The remodelling of the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium into a pioneering Covid-19 Isolation site would have been impossible without the proactive interventions of the MBDA. That nearly 1000 citizens have been hosted at this world class isolation facility with near 100% recovery is testament to the commitment and the drive by the MBDA team located at the stadium. Contributions to organisations such as the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber have provided for much needed Personal Protection Equipment so desperately needed at state hospitals, crumbling under pressure of Covid-19. When lockdown hit, all MBDA projects grinded to a halt, putting livelihoods of those who work on our projects and their families at risk. Workers who depended on weekly wages faced hunger and starvation. Working closely with organisations such as Gift of the Givers and the Community Chest brought relief to many. The MBDA’s ability to act swiftly, transparently and in partnership with grass roots community organisations will continue to be the model at which the Agency promotes sustainable and participatory development by citizens for citizens. Beneficiaries of the MBDA’s R4.4m COVID-19 Relief program Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber - R1m - towards COVID19 Relief Project- includes PPE, medical supplies, masks sanitisers, beds, bedding, mattresses, ventilators for metro hospitals and clinics. Nelson Mandela Bay University - R500 000 - Research and Development of Ventilators, development of 3D printing of masks. Gift of the Givers - R250 000 - Food parcels, masks, soap, sanitisers in Joe Slovo, Soweto on sea, Motherwell, Kwanobuhle, Rocklands. Slumdwellers International (CORC) - R250 000 - Food parcels, soap, and sanitisers, education, and awareness pamphlets specifically relevant for Informal settlements (Bethelsdorp, Greenbushes, Seaview, Uitenhage, Kwazakhele, Walmer, Motherwell). Community Chest of Nelson Mandela Bay - R1.2m - procure and distribute, Food Parcels, Kiddie Packs, Sanitisers, Masks Toiletries in MBDA priority areas of New Brighton, Uitenhage/Despatch, Schauderville/Korsten, Helenvale, Central. Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium - R600 000 - Purchasing and distribution of Hand Sanitisers, Masks in Wards 5, 7 and 15. Transforming space at Stadium as isolation facility. Gelvandale White Door of Hope (SAPS Victim Support Centre) - R60 000 - Meals for Places of Safety, Toiletries, Counselling, Food parcels, Sanitisers, Masks. New Brighton White Door of Hope (SAPS Victim Support Centre) - R60 000 - Meals for Places of Safety, Toiletries, Counselling, Food parcels, Sanitisers, Masks. Detailed expenditure report. IM Africa /NMB Science Centre - R250 000 - Capacitation of community group to produce 2000 Bottles of Hand Sanitiser and making of 1000 masks. Creative Arts Programme – R260 000 – Funding the Kulture Kapital Youth Festival