Cooperative Governance & Traditional Affairs Budget & Strategic Plan 2009/12: Deputy Minister's briefing

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

09 June 2009
Chairperson: Mr L Tsenoli
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Meeting Summary

The Committee was briefed by the Deputy Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs and by representatives from the Department of Corporate Governance and Traditional Affairs on the  Budget Vote 29. The purpose of the presentation was to provide feedback on the performance of the Department of Provincial and Local Government for the 2008/09 financial year, and to provide an overview of the strategic priorities of the new Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs. The new Department had an expanded mandate and the emphasis was on delivery and implementation. Given the Department's expanded mandate, which included closer co-operation between the three spheres of government, the overall feeling was that intergovernmental relations should be left voluntary, as legislating co-operative governance could be dangerous.

The Department then tabled its Strategic Plan, noting the key focus areas would be to build and strengthen co-operative governance in a developmental state, to strengthen accountability and clean government, to accelerate service delivery and support the vulnerable groups, to improve the developmental capacity of traditional leadership and to foster development partnerships, social cohesion and community mobilisation. The current and expected budgets were also tabled and explained.

Members expressed their concerns, in the light of the expanded mandate, on the capacity of the Department to handle the increased workload, and service delivery issues by municipalities at grassroots level. They further expressed concern with the apparently excessive use of consultants, and several Members nd demanded what the Department was doing about the issue. The Committee also touched on the possibility of having a single public service, but the Deputy Minister responded that this issue, along with others, would be revisited at a later time. Several agreed that the nature of intergovernmental relations was voluntary and should remain as such. Members questioned the proposed increase in electricity tariffs, and it was mooted that Eskom should make a presentation to the Committee. Members also asked what would happen to the Integrated Sustainable Rural Development Programme, and the options for traditional affairs, and what was being done about disaster management.

Meeting report

Department of Corporate Governance and Traditional Affairs: Strategic Plan and Budget 2009-12
Hon Yunus Carrim, Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, gave a brief political overview. He noted that President Zuma had identified five major issues requiring attention; namely, unemployment, crime, rural development, health and education. The next five years would be the crucial years for the South African democracy. The emphasis was on delivery and implementation. This was the reason behind the reorganisation of government, and this included the expanded mandate of the new Department. He outlined the main strategic priorities over the next five years as being to build and strengthen co-operative governance in a developmental state, to strengthen accountability and clean government, to accelerate service delivery and support the vulnerable groups, to improve the developmental capacity of traditional leadership and to foster development partnerships, social cohesion and community mobilisation.

Mr Elroy Africa, Deputy Director General of the Department then tabled the presentation document and reported that its purpose was, firstly, to provide feedback on the performance of the Department of Provincial and Local Government for the 2008/09 financial year, and secondly to provide an overview of the strategic priorities of the new Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs. The first part of the presentation was therefore looking back and the second was looking at the road ahead.

Mr Africa commenced by elaborating on the purpose of the Department, its key focus areas, its strategic objectives and an assessment of the Department’s performance, branch by branch, for the financial year 2008/09 (see attached presentation for full details)

The second part of the presentation elaborated upon the strategic priorities mentioned earlier by the Deputy Minister (see attached presentation for details). He then outlined the interventions that would require legislative involvement, and set out what the implications for change were likely to be. Finally he tabled the budget of the Department as it currently stood, and indicated where the major areas of change were likely to be (see attached document).
 
Discussion
The Chairperson welcomed the name change of the Department. The old name had, in not making mention of national government, seemed to exclude national government, whereas the term “Co-operative governance” clearly included national government as well.

The Chairperson noted that the nature of intergovernmental relations was voluntary and that legislative compulsion would not necessarily work. He referred to the Property Rates Act and pointed out that 150 municipalities had not complied with its implementation, although of course there were some who had complied. He noted that sometimes laws did not achieve what they intended to, and said that this issue needed further engagement.

Deputy Minister Carrim referred to the 150 municipalities not implementing the Property Rates Act and said that the fact of the matter was that the Act could not be implemented. A fuller in-depth response to the issue would be given to the Committee within a week.

The Chairperson also referred to the proposed electricity tariff hike in excess of 30%, sought by Eskom. The National Energy Regulator of SA (NERSA) was currently conducting hearings on the matter. Mr Tsenoli asked whether the Minister should not have tabled the proposed increase in Parliament so that members could express their views on it. He felt that Parliament should play a role in the debate.

Deputy Minister Carrim asked why Eskom did not make a presentation to this and other Portfolio Committees.

Mr Africa suggested that the Department should apply their minds on the matter and come back to the Committee within two days with a response.

Mr W Doman (DA) referred to a letter that he had written to the Chairperson relating to regulations that the Minister had released in relation to the Property Rates Act. He said that Parliament might make the laws, but regulations that affect them should also be referred back to Parliament for consideration.

Deputy Minister Carrim noted that what was often lost in legislation was slipped through in the regulations. He said that as far as possible regulations should be brought before Parliament. Mr Carrim said that he would report back on the issue when he next returned to the Committee.

Mr Doman referred to the Integrated Sustainable Rural Development Programme (ISRDP)
and asked what was to happen to it, given that there was a newly created Department on Rural Development.

Deputy Minister Carrim conceded that some matters would be moved over, but there was a need for co-operation between departments.

The Chairperson said that 21 nodes were identified as being the poorest in rural areas. He said that there needed to be a discussion on the issues around rural development at ministerial level. The Rural Development Department was yet to be formed. 

Mr Africa said that interaction with the Rural Development Ministry was yet to take place. He pointed out that there was a process of migration and a movement of functions between the two departments at present. Mr Africa stated that the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs was aware that the new Rural Development Department would impact upon the Department's ISRDP Programme. 

Mr Tsenoli stated that there should be a strategic information exchange between the persons involved. He asked how the Department would interact sectorally with other departments on issues of concurrency, such as health.

Mr Africa said that perhaps one suggestion could be a sector co-ordination process to interact both on a national and provincial level. The idea was for the Department to work with the provincial government as a sphere of government. Co-operation with the office of the Premiers and with local government would be encouraged.

Mr Doman referred to disaster plans and asked why the Department was not responsible for drawing them up, but only for co-coordinating them.

Mr Doman asked what the Department was doing about consumer boycotts that were taking place at municipalities.

Mr P Smith (IFP) noted that he agreed with the Chairperson that co-operative governance could not be forced.

Mr Smith referred to the Department's expanded mandate and asked whether it would be able to handle this. He commented that the Department had in the past dealt predominantly with local government issues and not much with provincial matters. He was concerned that the current name change would change nothing in relation to its current status. He also asked what the Department needed in terms of capacity, to meet its mandate.

Mr Smith also asked whether the expanded mandate included the division of revenue. He further asked whether the overspending by some municipalities would fall under co-operative governance.

Deputy Minister Carrim conceded that the Department in essence mostly dealt with local government issues in the past. The hope was that it would not undermine co-operative governance. He agreed that there could not be legal compulsion of intergovernmental co-operative governance. He conceded that capacitating the Department to face up to its expanded mandate was indeed a challenge.

Mr Smith noted that the Deputy Minister had mentioned the five priorities of government in his opening remarks. Mr Smith asked what the direct link was between those priorities and the presentation that had been made by the Department.

Mr Smith commented that the previous Portfolio Committee on Provincial and Local Government had felt that Traditional Affairs should be a department on its own. He asked what was happening on that issue.

 Deputy Minister Carrim reacted that there were various options open on whether Traditional Affairs should be a department on its own. A possibility was perhaps having two departments under one minister. The idea was perhaps have a separate department, but not a separate ministry. He noted that a concept paper was being worked on, and that he would report back to the Committee. It was, however, clear that traditional leaders would have a more enhanced role.

Mr A Williams (ANC) stated that the people at grassroots level were unhappy. He asked whether the Department was aware of how bad service delivery really was. He noted that the Department spent R54m on external consultants and professional services and only spent R2.5m on training and development. He asked what the R54m was being spent on, and what were consultants being used for. The concern was that consultants used were not accountable to Parliament.

Mr Yusuf Patel, Deputy Director General: Free Basic Services, Department, said that reports on the provision of free basic services would be made available to the Committee. He pointed out that infrastructure was related to service delivery challenges. The Department should be aware of what the current backlogs were. Services need to be linked with municipal finances. However, there were resource constraints in relation to infrastructure. Mr Patel said that there was a need to look at ways to leverage Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) funding, and new approaches to infrastructure problems. The Department was engaging with National Treasury and the Human Settlements Department to make try to enhance the better working of grants. The Division of Revenue Act needed to be looked at more closely. That Act currently did not allow for adjustments to be made during the financial year.

Deputy Minister Carrim conceded that consultants were not accountable to Parliament or to Cabinet. For a while the Department would still have to rely on them, but the idea was to reduce the number of consultants and to ensure that a skills transfer took place. He felt that there should be full accountability of consultants to the Committee. Where consultants were used by department officials, such officials should be held responsible. He pointed out that at the end, the Minister would be held accountable.

Mr Africa added that it was quite a rigorous process for a manager to motivate why a consultant was needed. He conceded that perhaps the process needed to be reconsidered.

The Chair commented that there needed to be further building of the capacity of the State. At the same time there needed to be good working relationships with structures outside the State as well. The question was what gap was being filled by consultants that government employees could not fill. Where government employees were found lacking, then the quality of their work should be examined.
 
Ms S Tsebe (ANC) referred to the Department's Integrated Development Plans (IDP) Analysis Report and asked if Members were given copies. She asked that there should be more clarity on the assistance being given to ward committees.

Mr Africa agreed to furnish the IDP Analysis Report to the Committee in due course. A report on ward committees would also be provided.

Ms Tsebe asked what was being done about disaster management, given that the structures had to be in place by November 2009.

Mr Africa responded that the Department had assisted 5 host cities in the implementation of disaster management plans.

The Chairperson asked what was being done by way of assistance to municipalities.

Mr George Kilian, Head: National Disaster Management Centre, stated that the Department was co-ordinating the plans in the municipalities. It was a difficult process as it was being done through the provinces. 

Ms Tsebe referred to infrastructure grant increases and asked whether the Department checked whether people employed by municipalities could actually do the work they were hired to do.

Mr T Botha (COPE) also agreed with the Chairperson's sentiments that legislating intergovernmental relations could be dangerous. He had been involved in the drafting of the Constitution and said that it was agreed that intergovernmental relations should be a soft federal structure, and should not be as rigid as the USA structure. Mr Botha said that the horizontal structure in intergovernmental relations was also not working. He asked why was it not possible to transfer funds from a municipality that was under spending to another municipality, perhaps in another province, that required additional funds. It was felt that service delivery in rural areas was the crucial issue.

Deputy Minister Carrim stated that the Department had a capacity building programme in place. He, however, felt that co-operative governance was neither federal nor unitary. He believed that there should be rather the notion of three spheres of government with co-operation and assistance between them. Unfortunately transfer of funds from one province to another could not be done.

Ms L Ludwanja (ANC) stated that the presentation had been silent on what action was being taken by the Department on the issue of consultants.

Ms Ludwanja also asked how the Department felt about the question of having a single public service. She noted that there was a sense that the Department should be closer to the people, and suggested that perhaps the Department should do visits to communities and visit the people door by door. 

Deputy Minister Carrim said that the issue of a single public service should be investigated more fully.

The Chairperson expressed his agreement that further detail was needed from the Department on this issue.

Deputy Minister Carrim commented that his responses to questions were brief, as greater detail would be furnished to the Committee at a later time. He noted that the possibility of moving local government to the Department of Public Service and Administration had been mooted, but the Minister had felt that it would undermine co-operative governance.

Mr Africa said that the Department wished to give more attention to provincial government as a sphere of government. Perhaps having nine provincial offices in place was the answer. There also needed to be greater co-operation with municipalities. On the fiscal side, the Department needed to work closer with National Treasury on the matter. 

Ms Tsebe asked how the worldwide recession affected municipalities. 

Deputy Minister Carrim said that more detail on the Municipal Infrastructure Grants and local economic development (LED) network could be provided to the Committee. The issue would be revisited.
 
The Chairperson noted that urgency was the watchword for the Department over the next five years, in order to fulfil its mandate. He requested that there be a speedy communication of issues to the Committee, even if they had not been finalised, so that at least the Committee would be kept informed of what was going on.

The meeting was adjourned.

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