Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs: Strategic Plan & Budget 2009/12

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Meeting Summary

The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (the Department) noted that it was a department in transition. Deputy Minister Yunus Carrim noted a general concern about pace of delivery, since Government had in the past tended to focus on the building of a people-centered developmental state. Government now had to increasingly respond to common needs. The system of co-operative governance had to become tighter, and there had to be service delivery acceleration. There had to be discussions about interventions in municipalities, and the future functions of provinces, all of which would be debated fully, with public hearings and engagements with the provinces.

The Department reviewed its accomplishments of the previous year. These included the establishment of a National capacity building framework for local government, the rollout of an anti-corruption support programme, preparation of plans for disaster management, spatial development frameworks for poor and underdeveloped areas, and the preparation of local government indicators. Matters still requiring attention included the need to clarify the powers and functions across and between the three spheres of government, the challenge of service delivery to the poor, and corruption and fraud in municipalities. The Department was committed to the support of vulnerable groups, and developing the capacity of traditional leaders, to enable the latter to drive rural development. Community mobilisation and participation in the interests of development was identified as a top priority.

Discussion was limited, due to time constraints. However, Members indicated the urgency and importance of addressing a number of issues, especially the fact that there was no allocation to disaster management in 2009, and the reports of  mismanagement and corruption at municipal level, which caused grave concerns. Members enquired about programmes directed at strengthening street committees and related institutions. Several Members raised specific questions about reports of problems in the North West, and questioned why reports would not be available before August. The Deputy Minister had to remind members of the autonomy granted to local government by the Constitution, and said that it would have been more fitting for the NCOP to have provided a report. Other questions, to which the Department would respond in writing within fourteen days, included the need to address the problem of officials not being held accountable for their misconduct, but being moved to other spheres or allowed to resign, lack of political leadership and the need to train councilors to monitor the situation, as also to look at their remuneration. They also asked about gender transformation within the Department, how corruption would actually be addressed and how Operation Clean Audit would be conducted. Members also noted the need to improve and standardise policies on indigents and the disabled, the need to report on municipalities that were receiving support, the criteria for the establishment of municipalities, support for traditional leaders and the need to improve monitoring and evaluation.

Meeting report

Introduction by the Deputy Minister
Hon Yunus Carrim, Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, congratulated Mr Mokgobi on his appointment as Chairperson, and said he was glad to see experienced members on the Committee to make up a strong Parliament.

He noted that the budget votes in election years tended to be rushed, but stressed that there would have to be other engagements during the second half of the year, as there was not sufficient time to set out what was intended for the next five years.

He said that people had become impatient about the pace of delivery. The objective for the previous fifteen years had been the building of a people-centered developmental state. The President had warned that government was now under the spotlight, and there had to be an appropriate response to common needs. A new confederation of ministries and departments had been established. The new Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (DCGTA or the Department) was in transition and would be interested to hear how it was viewed by the Committee. It was expected to switch from municipal and local government to co-operative governance. There was a need to work with the public. The system of co-operative governance had to become tighter. Powers and functions had to be examined. There had to be service delivery acceleration. There had been an outcry for interventions in municipalities, and this had to be debated.

Mr Carrim said that there were different possibilities for modifications to the provincial system. It was possible that provinces could be retained with different functions, or that the number of provinces could be reduced. This would be debated, with public hearings, and engagements with the provinces.

Department (DCGTA) Strategic Plan and budget briefing
Mr Elroy Afrika, Acting Director General, DCGTA, said that he would report on the previous financial year, and define priorities going forward. He noted that the new Department had retained the six-branch structure of the formerly-named Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG).

During the last year a policy review had been completed. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had received support from the Department with governance. Institutions of traditional leadership had received attention, with special reference to the Khoisan. The Department had supported the Integrated Development Plans (IDPs). Work had been done with municipalities to improve service delivery. A funding model had been developed for work committees, and a study on free basic services conducted. Other achievements included a National capacity building framework for local government; work performed with municipal finance management; the rollout of an anti-corruption support programme; plans prepared for disaster management with 5 FIFA World Cup Host municipalities, and the drawing up of spatial development frameworks for areas affected by poverty and underdevelopment. Local government indicators had been prepared, and a five-year local government agenda had been refined. 1 200 professionals and experts were mobilised for local government.

Mr Afrika proceeded to report on lessons learnt from the previous year. Powers and functions between the three spheres of government needed to be clarified. The voluntary nature of intergovernmental relations presented a problem. The hands on support programme could improve. Progress with regard to service delivery to the poor  was a serious challenge. During 2008/09, local government had been in distress. Provincial government had to be strengthened. There had to be a stronger focus on corruption and fraud in municipalities. The management of local government was fragmented. A single management window was required.

Mr Africa then identified five main priorities for the period up to 2014 (see attached presentation for full details)

The first was that the developmental state had to be fostered at the level of local government. Work had to be done with the National Planning Commission, to strengthen capacity.

Secondly, accountability and clean government had to be achieved. The anti-corruption programme, and monitoring and oversight capability in general, had to be promoted. In terms of Operation Clean Audit, the goal was a clean audit for every municipality by 2014.

Thirdly, service delivery and support had been identified as vulnerable areas. A backlog study was performed. Programmes for infrastructure development had to be launched. There had to be a focus on vulnerable groups like the disabled, women, youth and children. The Ministry was a host for the FIFA World Cup, and had to retain a commitment to building disaster management capacity.

A fourth priority related to traditional leaders, who had to be provided with developmental capacity, and who also had to be equipped to participate, to enable them to drive rural development.

Lastly, development partnerships and community mobilisation deserved attention. The Minister had hosted a stakeholder bosberaad on nation building, religious and cultural rights.

Mr Elroy tabled the budget figures and noted that R35 billion had been allocated. The bulk of this was destined for the local government equitable share.

He concluded with an indication of areas requiring legislative reform. He singled out the Amendment to the Framework Act on Traditional Leadership, and the Municipal Property Rates Act.

Discussion
Mr M Makhubela (COPE, Limpopo) enquired about disaster management. He noted that the Jukskei river floods occurred year after year, and people suffered damage, and asked whether no provision could be made to deal with this, and if no lessons had been learned from the past. 

The Chairperson added that there was no budget reflected in 2009 for disaster, and that there rightfully should be such an allocation.

Mr Afrika confirmed that there had been no budgets allocated to disaster as yet, at a National level. The Department had spoken to National Treasury about the matter. The response had been that it was bad finance planning to allocate for disasters.

Mr Afrika ventured that a fast-tracking mechanism was needed for disaster funding. Concerning the Jukskei river, he said that a disaster management act and framework was urgently needed. Currently, provinces and metros were dealing with disasters, but there had been some progress made with addressing the problem. An alarm system had been installed that warned of rising flood levels, and public awareness programmes had been launched.

Mr J Gunda (ID, Northern Cape) referred to a lack of confidence in municipal service delivery. He asked how this could be changed. He also asked what was meant by the statement that development partnerships and community participation would be encouraged, and that communities would be the active partners of local municipalities.

Mr A Matila (ANC, Gauteng) enquired about the reference to building the democratic development state, at community and street level. He wondered if there were Departmental programmes directed at the strengthening of street committees and related institutions.

Mr Yusuf Patel, Deputy Director General, DCGTA, responded that the Department was indeed urgently concerned with making communities active partners. In this respect, the Integrated Development Planning (IDP) was seen as a key programme, considering that community participation improved their credibility.

He added that Parliament had passed the Local Government Laws Amendment Act. It contained a funding model gazetted for comment, and a framework for the establishment of ward committees. Thus far, some resistance had been encountered from municipalities, and the extent to which municipalities were willing to fund ward committees varied from one municipality to another. It was up to municipalities to make the ward committees functional. Provinces had to develop their own frameworks for running them. Ward committees would form part of infrastructure oversight.

Mr Patel also said that the South African Police Service (SAPS) had been engaged regarding Community Police Forums.

Infrastructure monitoring had been tightened, with respect to Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) projects on the ground. He concluded that it was not merely a matter of providing more resources to local government, but also of making more intensive use of existing resources.

Deputy Minister Carrim added that there was talk of the need to jealously guard the functions of local government. On the other hand questions were also raised as to why the national government could not intervene. This had led to the situation where the poor suffered, and the Constitution could not provide guidance. National government was not granted power of intervention in terms of the Constitution. He said that legislation was needed to address Sections 100 and 139 of the Constitution. If local government did not work, provincial government had to intervene. If that failed, there had to be national government intervention.

Mr T Chaane (ANC, North West) said that certain facts regarding North West municipalities, particularly Sannieshof, had become public during the previous two weeks. The President had called people in, but no official document had been released. He asked whether the Committee could be briefed about that province.

Mr D Bloem (COPE, Free State) added that the Minister had stated in the previous week that North West province had become dysfunctional. He had written a letter to the Premier, asking for comment as to why it was not considered necessary for him to take over. Mr Bloem suggested that a report was definitely needed about what was going on in that province.

Deputy Minister Carrim replied that a specific briefing about North West would be available by August.

Mr Chaane expressed his disappointment that a report would only be forthcoming at that date.

Deputy Minister Carrim retorted that the NCOP should not in fact be asking the Minister about that matter. It was a provincial matter, and it would have been more fitting and correct for the NCOP to have provided a report. Parliament was nearing its recess, and an NCOP sitting had to be set up. Reports had to go through Cabinet. That explained the delay.

Mr Mokgobi noted that time constraints would not permit responses to all questions phrased during the meeting. He asked that the Department respond in writing to unanswered questions.

Mr Carrim agreed that Mr Afrika, on behalf of the Department, would respond to all questions within fourteen days.

The following questions and comments were also given:

Mr Gunda made mention of a commission of investigation and forensic audit concerning a municipality in the Northern Cape, which had confirmed that there had been misconduct. He said that in this case clearly someone had to be held accountable, yet this did not seem to have been done. He said there was a problem that officials would receive substantial “golden handshakes”, or would be moved to other spheres of government, but no steps were taken against them. This made him question how serious the Department and the Ministry were about the poor and the vulnerable.

Mr W Faber (DA, Northern Cape) said that there was an expressed commitment to Operation Clean Audit, but that if nothing was done about disclaimers, little could be gained. He questioned why there was no national intervention.  He concurred with Mr Gunda’s comments about municipal managers at Sol Plaatjie, who had simply resigned, but had not been held accountable. Some were afterwards employed in other structures of government.

Mr A Matila (ANC, Gauteng) asked if there was transformation with regard to the former preponderance of males in the Department’s leadership.

Mr Matila noted that there were fingers being pointed at municipalities by many people, and asked whether there was no political leadership at these municipalities. He suggested that as part of human resource development, councillors could be trained to monitor, and asked if there were any plans to capacitate councillors.

Mr Makhubela enquired about the anti-corruption strategy, and asked what the document was intended to accomplish. He said that reports of corruption were rife in the media, and he would like to know how corruption would actually be dealt with. He also enquired as to how Operation Clean Audit would be conducted.

Mr L Nzimande (ANC, Kwazulu-Natal) remarked that he had had personal experience of vulnerability, growing up as a blind person in the Bulwer district. He asked what the preoccupation of the Directorate had been in the past. At the municipal level there appeared to be no standardization, nor did there appear to be a policy on indigents. He expressed an interest in resources allocated, saying that he still sensed an imbalance, and wanted to know where the targeted groups were located.

Mr Nzimande also asked what was being done to encourage the participation of the disabled. He stressed that the deaf people of South Africa needed to have their rights recognised.

Mr Nzimande said that recently there had been a presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Public Services, during which the relocation of Community Police Forums into municipalities was discussed. He asked what the nature was of the Department’s engagement with that project.

Mr Gunda asked that  municipalities receiving hands on support be identified.

Mr Makhubela enquired about the criteria for the establishment of municipalities. He said that in Limpopo, there were areas that had limited access to municipal functions, and were far removed from service delivery points, and he wondered when and how such an area could qualify to have a municipality of its own.

Mr Mokgobi commented that the National capacity building framework, anti-corruption services and Operation Clean Audit were works in progress. There was a lack of infrastructure oversight by the Minister.

Mr Mokgobi ventured that the remuneration of councillors was perhaps inadequate, which, to put it bluntly,  could encourage them to steal.

Mr Mokgobi said that there had been a reduction in capacity provided for traditional leaders, and it was clear that no support was being received from the provinces. He asked what other support could be forthcoming.

Mr Mokgobi suggested that the Department trace its development back to the establishment phase, to gain certainty about its purpose. He commended the Departmental mandate, but added that serious monitoring and evaluation was needed.

The meeting was adjourned.

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