The Minister and officials from the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) presented a detailed report on the 2009/10 Annual Report. The Department had an unqualified audit report, but with matters of emphasis. One of the major achievements in this year was the finalisation of the State of Local Government Report and drawing up of the Local Government Turnaround Strategy. A legislative committee had been appointed and was meeting regularly with the Deputy Minister to prioritise legislation needing to be amended. Provincial offices would be established in the provinces, to try to reduce the large spending on subsistence and travelling that was occasioned in this year as a result of the Department’s conscious decision to send out officials to work with the municipalities in the provinces. The provincial office staff would be assigned to work closely with the municipalities. The Department described the Integrated Development Plan processes, and the interaction with various institutions. It was noted that as part of the intensive turnaround of the Department itself, several senior management posts had deliberately not been filled, and all senior management posts had been readvertised. This process was likely to be finished by December 2010. It continued to address free basic services. R11 billion had been allocated for the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) but there had been only 89% spending by municipalities. The Department was trying to improve this. In the financial management arena, COGTA had launched Operation Clean Audit and was hoping to achieve the targets for correct submission of reports, although it was unlikely to reach the targets for unqualified audits. Concerted efforts were made to improve communications. Contingency plans had been put in place and implemented for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, laying the basis for sustained and good work. Areas that still required attention from the Department included management of assets, the recordal of performance information, and how it assessed performance, matters around supply chain management and management of finances, particularly to avoid irregular expenditure. Of its allocation of R36.5 billion, COGTA had managed to spend 98%, with underspending in disaster management and personnel. Its management of the R20 billion for the Local Government Equitable Share showed no discrepancies.
The Committee outlined concerns about the way in which the Committee had been treated during recent oversight visits, as well as direct concerns raised from their oversight. The Committee also expressed its concerns about the whole handling of disaster management, including the fact that although there had been almost constant discussion over this for ten years, there was still no strategy. The Department was still relying on funding that it hoped to get through the budget adjustment process, and had indicated that if disasters were to occur around this critical time, it was unlikely that funds could be released timeously to address the situation. Members noted that suggestions had been made before, either that a special fund be created, or, preferably, that emergency procedures should be agreed upon that would allow for immediate release and use of funds. Members also indicated their dissatisfaction with lack of progress on fire services improvement, including the fact that legislation was not yet presented and no Board was in place. Deteriorating infrastructure, management of stations and lack of service in rural and township areas were all concerns.
Members asked what COGTA was doing to ensure that the provinces were spending, and were capacitated, and wondered whether spending trends were apparent and if some municipalities were improving while others declined, and also requested feedback on whether Municipal Infrastructure Grant funding was being effectively utilised, and whether there was proper capacity and planning in municipalities. They were concerned that this was still based on 2001 Census figures. The Minister commented, in response, that he was not sure that the funding methods and calculations were appropriate, either for the Equitable Share or Grants. Members were concerned about and requested a report on spending on consultants, of R37 million. Some Members disputed the assertion that local government was working, citing problems in various municipalities, and said that the mere fact that disaster management had not been addressed was indicative of poor government systems. They asked when the turnaround was likely to show results, and how this would be measured. Members asked how and by whom cross-cutting issues such as water and sanitation would be addressed. The Minister stressed that COGTA was a coordinating and not implementing department and relied heavily on other role players, but outlined the initiatives that were taken between departments and ministries. Members discussed capacity constraints at some length, both in relation to the department itself, and at provincial and local government level, and asked for reports from COGTA on how it intended to address this.
Members were generally complimentary of the improved financial performance, but did call for reports on the high amounts of irregular expenditure. A Member asked how Operation Clean Audit could succeed when some incompetent or dishonest municipal officials would simply move from one municipality to another, causing problems in each. They asked how COGTA would unlock unspent funds in municipalities and would address the substantial debt owed to some municipalities by other government departments, particularly Department of Public Works. Members asked about the relationships with other institutions, funding institutions, the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) and the entities of the Department, as well as the Commission on the Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Rights of Communities.
Members asked for a monthly update on the turnaround strategy. They raised questions on public participation processes, and whether any frameworks would assist municipalities. They asked for updates on the Urban Renewal Programme, whether the turnaround strategy was managing to address any of the objectives that had not been achieved, and the slow pace of delivery in some instances. Members asked for progress on building internal capacity to run community work programmes, urged that employment in municipalities and project management there must be prioritised. Members asked that a formal presentation on financial management would have to be given at some stage, as well as a report back on the proposed amendments to the Municipal Systems Amendment Bill.
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Annual Report 2009/10
Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson welcomed Hon Sicelo Shiceka, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, and his team from the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA or the Department). He noted that this meeting was a follow up to the oversight visit done the previous week, which had also included oversight on some other entities, including the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) and a municipality. This meeting was of great importance, especially since there had been some problems in communication in Pretoria. It was vital that leadership be present, since it ultimately took responsibility for communicating key issues. At that meeting, Portfolio Committee Members had been concerned that they could not proceed with the questions and follow up that should have been done. The objective of this visit had included observation of where operations were done, and to enable the Committee to interact with officials that it would normally not see in Cape Town, such as staff from the DMB. Some key questions were raised. Before this meeting, the Committee had also received input from Auditor-General South Africa (AGSA) who outlined some preliminary observations of what was happening in the Department, as well as its key challenges and highlights.
The Chairperson highlighted that AGSA, similar to the Public Service Commission and the Statistician General, would interact with institutions and the public to collate evidence and data to support its own information, and to enable it to make decisions and recommendations. This meant that the work of policy makers was informed by hard facts emanating from sister institutions. For instance, when looking at the Municipal Systems Amendment Bill, the Committee had recognised that there were some cross-cutting issues relating to bargaining council matters and had involved New Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) in that process, to realise the objectives of that Bill to ensure stability in local public administration. He added that the interaction with other institutions would also happen in relation to the Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR), which was due on 26 October.
Minister Shiceka responded that he had not been satisfied with the way in which this Committee had been treated during its oversight visit, and vouched that it would not happen again, under his leadership. Committee Members should be met at the airport and provided with a smooth trip to the hotel. He apologised for the incident.
Minister Shiceka said that all posts in COGTA, from Director General through management, had recently been advertised. COGTA was undergoing deep organisational change, which should be concluded by the end of November. The Department was top-heavy, with insufficient staff at lower levels. Previously there had been 145 managers out of a total of 552 staff. This had since been reduced to 125. All Senior Management Staff posts had to be advertised in terms of the Public Service Amendment Act.
Mr Elroy Africa, Director General, COGTA, gave an overview of the activities of the Department in 2009/10 and said that perhaps the most important substantive highlight had been the finalisation of the State of Local Government Report, the first assessment of its kind in the last ten years. He noted that a Local Government Indaba had been convened, following a very interactive process in which the Department worked closely with provinces and consulted with a range of stakeholders before concluding its report. The overall assessment was that local government was working in South Africa, although key weaknesses in the system prevented it from functioning optimally. The Department then presented its report to Cabinet, and this resulted in the drafting of the Local Government Turnaround Strategy, adopted by the Cabinet in December. COGTA then worked closely with the provinces so that they could get municipalities to prepare Municipal turnaround strategies, which were concluded by 171 municipalities by year end. This would lay the basis for much of the COGTA’s future work.
The second major highlight was the continual work being done with provinces and municipalities with regard to their Integrated Development Planning Processes (IDP). Support by the Department had resulted in a slight improvement in the creditability of the IDP programmes within the last year, compared to the previous year. Around 85% of IDPs were thought to be of a credible quality.
COGTA also worked hard on matters concerning service delivery in municipalities and continued to make some progress in the area of free basic services. Statistics were provided for water, sanitation and electricity. The Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) continued to be an important instrument, for which R11 billion was allocated. There were, however, some challenges around expenditure, with 89% spending of this by municipalities. The Department continued to work closely with provinces and targeted individual municipalities around expenditure, and this was a major priority and focus, to ensure that monies allocated for basic services were spent.
COGTA noted that in the areas of financial management, COGTA had managed to give practical meaning to the Minister’s call for clean audits in municipalities and provinces, by launching Operation Clean Audit. Once this had been launched nationally, the Department had worked quickly with the provinces to get them on board. All provinces had subsequently launched this programme, and had made very clear commitments to assist with those targets. The Department believed it could meet its targets for submission, although it would be unable to meet targets on the numbers of municipalities that should be able to provide unqualified audits, although the goal was that this should be achieved by 2014.
The Department had focused on one or two areas of legislation, and had established a legislative committee, assigned as the responsibility of the Deputy Minister. This Committee was meeting weekly and formally, to consider the priorities for legislative reform.
Good progress was made in the area of Disaster Management. A major focus area was to prepare and put in place contingency plans leading up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. There were no major incidents, partly due to the master plan being operational, in close cooperation with Disaster Management units, relevant security and intelligence agencies, laying the basis for sustained and good work. By the end of the financial year, 27 Disaster Management Centres were established across the country.
Mr Afrika said that concerted efforts were made to improve communications and the Department had renewed partnerships with the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), but admitted that more had to be done to communicate the work done by the Department.
Mr Afrika confirmed that the substantial restructuring process commenced in 2009/10. By March 2010, all SMS posts were advertised and at that time the vacancy rate was 23% at SMS level. This would normally be regarded as above average, but it must be seen in light of a conscious decision not to fill posts pending restructuring. Clear interim arrangements were in place as part of the process, with portfolios for many of the portfolio heads, and a project management approach was implemented. Senior management received advice from a university lecturer on project management, who was pleased that the Department was adopting this approach.
Mr Afrika noted that in 2008/09 the Department had received a qualified audit report, which had been turned around in 2009/10, so that it achieved an unqualified audit. Clear progress had been made. However, there were a number of areas flagged by the Audit Committee, which required serious attention by the Department. This included management of assets in the Department, which had been a contributory factor to the previous qualifications and which still remained an area for improvement. The Department also needed to deal with recording performance information, and how it assessed performance, including whether it had the evidence to support claims around performance. The Auditor-General (AG) remained concerned that often the COGTA performance information was insufficient to substantiate what was reported.
The AG was also concerned about matters pertaining to supply chain management and the way in which finances were managed in the Department. He indicated that some officials had not performed satisfactorily in this regard and there were a number of instances of irregular expenditure in the last financial year. He had needed to take disciplinary action and had also instituted a range of forensic investigations.
He concluded with some general comments on spending. COGTA had a final allocation of R36.5 billion, of which 98% was spent. The major reason for underspending related to non-spending of additional funds from National Treasury for disaster management, and the non-filling of posts.
COGTA performed quite well in grant management, and the Local Government Equitable Share (LGES) of over R20 billion was the single biggest pot of money managed by the Department, which was then transferred to municipalities at particular points in time, according to a managed schedule. This area showed no discrepancies. National Treasury had withheld some of the LGES money last year owing to poor expenditure in the MIG. A number of entities reported to the Department, and the money to them had been transferred in full.
Mr Afrika concluded that the COGTA had managed to keep matters stable during its transition, but remained alert to challenges in the sector and itself, and remained focused on the work and outcomes.
Mr A Williams (ANC) referred to the MIG funds. Although COGTA noted that there had been 89% spending, the amount underspent amounted to R1 billion. He wondered what it was doing to ensure that the municipalities that were not spending were being capacitated to get that money and to spend it. He asked if there were spending trends apparent, and if the same municipalities were not spending over several years. He enquired whether the poor municipalities were becoming poorer, while the rich became richer. He wondered when COGTA would be able to achieve full spending, and whether it was striving to achieve 100% spending also by the municipalities, or whether it was satisfied with 89% spending.
Mr Williams referred to the R37 million spent on consultants and wanted to know more about the kinds of instructions given, why so much was spent, and why the Department could not hire or capacitate its own internal staff.
Mr Williams referred to R49 million spending on travel and subsistence which was attributed to the turnaround strategy, enquired why the Department was spending a substantial R1 940 per day on this, and why it could not be reduced.
Ms D Nlhengethwa (ANC) congratulated the Department on the improved audit report. She enquired how far COGTA had gone in implementing the findings and recommendations from the AG.
Ms Nlhengethwa requested feedback on the MIG funding and handling of MIG funds by municipalities. She was aware that some municipalities did not understand the MIG programme and did not adhere to the Act, and thought this was due to lack of capacity and proper planning in the municipalities. She asked how COGTA would assist them to improve. She also asked if it was not possible to make the allocations according to something other than the 2001 census that was currently used, which was clearly outdated.
Mr J Lorimer (DA) noted the comment by Mr Afrika that local government was generally working, and thought this would be disputed by residents of Pietermaritzburg and Butterworth, rate payers in Johannesburg, and contractors in Nelson Mandela Bay. He questioned whether this statement could be correct. The fact that local government was not working optimally was commented on, but he thought that in many areas it had in fact failed totally. He acknowledged the turnaround strategy, but asked when it was likely to show a real difference will be seen and how it would be indicated.
Mr P Smith (IFP) referred to the water crisis in the country and the lack of delivery in many instances, as noted by the Committee’s oversight visits last year. There were many problems cutting across different departments. He enquired how COGTA would, for instance, fit in to ensuring that water services would work. He questioned whether raw sewage being pumped into a river was a matter for Department of Water or COGTA, and who would take responsibility to correct the problem. The same applied to electrification, especially in the rural areas.
Mr Smith asked if a monthly update on the turnaround strategy could be provided, setting out challenges and milestones.
Mr Smith said that some years ago, a policy position had been taken whereby municipalities who failed to pay the MIG could, under certain circumstances, have those funds withdrawn and redirected to municipalities who were able to spend properly. He asked if this was still in place, and to what extent it was used.
Mr Smith asked COGTA to comment on the capacity of the provinces, whether the support and monitoring that was required of them under the Constitution was taking place, and what progress was being made on municipal internal capacity.
The Chairperson noted the outstanding amount of R212 million, which was supposed to spent on the World Cup, as part of the legacy programme. He asked on the spending of this money to date. He also raised concerns around the report by the SA Institute of Fire Services on the poor state of fire services generally. He asked what COGTA was doing to address that and the poor availability of fire services and trucks. He noted the comment on legislation around fire services, but said this did not address the substantive issues.
The Chairperson raised his concerns around protocol, especially during the Committee’s visit to Mbombela. The Committee was not demanding special VIP treatment but was concerned about the practicalities, saying that the Committee had expected to be briefed in advance, to receive relevant documentation, to save time and assist in networking, and to be shown where the work was being done. The way in which the Committee was treated surely mirrored the treatment afforded to locals, and he stressed that COGTA had a key responsibility to ensure that all colleagues and other department were treated well and in the spirit of cooperative governance.
The Chairperson referred to the financial management issues, complimenting COGTA on achieving an unqualified audit. However, he did want more detail on the irregular expenditure, and a report on what COGTA was doing about this, as not only the management but use of resources was vital.
The Chairperson appealed for a solution on how to unlock unspent funds in municipalities. Bela Bela Municipality was apparently owed R5 million by the Department of Public Works (DPW). Payment of this amount would make a huge difference not only to the cash flow situation, but would enable it to continue with its good work. Also of concern was the length of time for which amounts were outstanding, saying that if funds were released then more could be done to spend, even despite the disjuncture between year ends of April (National Departments) and June (local government).
The Chairperson said that poor communications should not undermine the achievements.
The Chairperson enquired about the impact of, and the relationship with the State Information Technology Agency (SITA).
The Chairperson said that National Treasury had suggested that too many reporting responsibilities were being put on municipalities, which took officials away from doing the work on services, and suggested that the information should simply be posted via the websites. He called for comment to what extent such IT could improve the quality and speed within which the Department interacted with municipalities, even in internal communications.
The Chairperson noted and appreciated the deep internal transformation but was concerned about the time taken to achieve this. In the last budget debate, he had expressly referred to the difficulties in COGTA, and wished for levels of coherence to be achieved in that Department to improve morale. He noted the undertaking to conclude this by November. Change was uncomfortable and provoked instability and uncertainty amongst staff. He stressed that he would like to work with evidence-based assessments of the work being done in the Department, and would like to receive input from the Public Service Commission on this.
The Chairperson said he was hoping that COGTA was cooperating with the Presidency in its efforts to promote evidence-based evaluations that could produce concrete evidence on and show the impact of what had been done, making it easier to judge performance. He commented that the project-management approach was useful, as it could produce the biggest impact with the least resources that could be borrowed elsewhere.
Mr J Matshoba (ANC) asked whether sanitation fell under the Department of Water.
Minister Shiceka firstly wished to comment on the issues around the funding of local government. He thought that the methodology of using the Equitable Share and municipal grants was wrong. In theory, municipalities were to raise 95% of their own revenue and Government would provide 5%. The formula, however, was based only on the number of people in the area, and did not look at the backlog, the topography or other important considerations. He thought it would be important to engage the services of the Special Services Commission (SSC), because local government had not been getting what it should have been getting. In regard to MIG, he agreed that many municipalities did not seem to be using the funds optimally, but COGTA did not have capacity to intervene. For this reason, assistance was being provided to try to give municipalities the capacity to spend. One local government that was to be assisted did not have a single engineer in place to do the work. The Department was looking at projects to address this, and would indicate the direction to go, and he believed that the special services provided would go far in addressing the problem. Non-spending was high, but it did not help to adopt a forceful or disciplinary approach.
Minister Shiceka added that Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) did not, contrary to popular belief, fund poor people. In fact, its loans were more expensive than some of the regular banks. This meant that it was no longer an organisation that could be relied upon to provide funding and assist with infrastructure. The Department had met with people dealing with funds from the European Union, who indicated that the DBSA was drawing money from them.
Minister Shiceka thus felt that the money from MIG should be put to helping individuals. He believed that municipalities probably could unlock capacity, and COGTA was categorising them to isolate those who could be given more attention and support, to address the needs. Hopefully this process would be concluded by December so that other departments who provided support would know were the support could be given.
The Minister noted that he had heard nothing about the implementation of recommendations on the dismissal of a former Chief Financial Officer, and said that the unqualified opinion now received indicated that action had been taken properly to address the problems. He was confident that the problems raised even now would be addressed fully by the next audit, and hoped that there would be an unqualified report with no matters of emphasis.
Minister Shiceka noted comments on the use of the 2001 census figures, but said that there were no later official statistics available, and unofficial statistics could not be used. He agreed that updated data was needed, since migration and immigration had occurred.
Minister Shiceka felt that the comments about local government being dysfunctional were not correct. The World Cup was built on the municipalities. It was not fair to tarnish all municipalities with comments that may apply to only a few. All municipalities had problems and challenges but in general they were all functional and the problems were being attended to.
The Minister agreed that a monthly update on progress of the turnaround strategy could be provided.
Minister Shiceka referred to comments about withholding the MIG. He said that taking money from underspending municipalities was wrong, since it would only perpetuate the underspending problem. He did not favour this. Underspending was often because of lack of capacity, and it would be more useful instead to build capacity and thus address the problem. Provinces had no capacity to support municipalities, even in a province such as Western Cape. All these problems were being addressed, with the focus changing to look outwards.
Minister Shiceka acknowledged that the state of fire services was not good at all. Fire services were generally for the wealthy, with no services being available in townships and rural areas. The Fire Services Board, which consisted of politicians from provinces, had not provided any names to enable the Board to be appointed and to start driving policy issues and move forward.
Minister Shiceka noted the comment on spending, and on municipal debt. He had asked that the data on this be disaggregated, to be able to isolate how much was spent in each area, and how much was owing to municipalities. He was awaiting a report, which would then be provided to the Committee. In regard to the Bela Bela Municipality, he noted that there was inaccuracy of the billing system, resulting in disputes between municipality and departments on how much was owed, but the municipality said it was sorting this out. The Department was looking into possible different approaches to making the payments and giving national government the debt. It was also developing capacity to call in the R6 billion owed. National Treasury, however, had said that it could not get involved as this was not its responsibility. Minister Shiceka would be raising this with the President.
Minister Shiceka said that the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) negotiated with municipalities on bargaining council issues. The departments could not negotiate without mandates from their ministers, and if they attempted to resolve strikes or other problems they did not in fact have the legal mandate to do so. Local Government was very fragmented in employment issues, so it was necessary to try to reach some standardisation. If a model of integrated public service was found it could better organise local government. He agreed that conditions of employment were required, especially for municipal managers. Some municipal managers seemed to be paid even more than the President.
Minister Shiceka said that SITA was having its own problems, and was also very expensive when compared to the private sector market. The Department was looking at an ICT system that would ensure that all matters were coordinated across the Department. It was working with the Chairperson of the SITA Board on the issues. In other countries, municipalities had their own ICT that helped them to communicate and establish links and coordinate what had to be done.
Minister Shiceka said that the legislative system and advertising process impacted on the time it took to restructure, which meant that COGTA was hamstrung as to how quickly this could be completed. SMS appointments should be done by December. The Minister suggested that the Committee should rather get comment from the Public Service Commission (PSC), not Department of Public Service and Administration, in light of the fact that many of the problems were historical.
Minister Shiceka said that COGTA officials would deal with the sanitation issues, but that Members should be aware of the discussions between himself and the President on roles. The Minister had seven tasks, including coordination of access to basic services, which involved sanitation, electricity, water and waste removal. This was under discussion at the moment, and Department of Water was suggesting changes to the subsidisation of basic waste removal. In future COGTA would have a more hands-on approach, and there would be a single window of coordination of all concerns.
Mr Afrika then answered the concerns around consultancy fees. Most of the R37 million spending was linked to the IT for the Disaster Management Centre, where a substantial amount had been invested into state-of-the-art capital infrastructure. Many service providers were employed in this very specialist area. Generally, he noted that IT employees tended to move around, selling their skills wherever needed, although the Department was trying to build relationships and employ them internally. He noted that further sizeable payments related to security of the buildings and also to SITA contracts. Government departments had no discretion whether to call in other service providers and had to use SITA to take care of the major IT networks, but this raised security issues, since SITA was the custodian of all back office infrastructure, and was receiving significant amounts for this. Other large spending occurred in disaster management, to cover provision of, for instance, aircraft and helicopters. Service providers were additionally called in to assist the Department on a host of matters. There were attempts to cut consultancy expenditure. He could provide a breakdown if needed.
Mr Afrika then discussed the R49 million for travel and expenditure, also indicating that he could provide a written response containing all details. However, he did say that this year the expense had been out of the ordinary, pursuant to a Departmental decision to send most of its staff members out to provinces for extended periods, to work with municipalities on the ground. This had never been done before. This had not even been considered at the start of the financial year, but accounted for the budget. In future COGTA would be establishing provincial offices, with about four or five senior managers working in each province to work with municipalities. This would then reduce travelling and subsistence.
Mr Africa then addressed the question on when a significant difference would become apparent, by saying that the Minister had now signed service delivery agreements with all MECs in the country, and would be doing the same with mayors. These would indicate on an annual basis, what measurements of service delivery would be applied between now and 2014, such as specific targets for Operation Clean Audit for each year, to which the parties could be held accountable.
Mr Afrika then referred to COGTA’s stated Outcome 9, relating to the agreement between the Minister and President. This had seven outputs, each with a range of indicators. Mr Afrika had, for instance, had a meeting with the Acting Director General of the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) to discuss sanitation, when it was confirmed that sanitation issues had now been officially transferred to the Department of Human Settlements (DHS). However, that did not affect the overall coordinating responsibility to deliver services to municipalities. Funds were set aside from MIG for sanitation, but overall policy on sanitation now rested with DHS.
The Chairperson said that concerns were continually cited around slow release of funding after a disaster. For instance, North West was asking why funds were not released, despite the declaration of disaster areas. He enquired what the Department was discussing and negotiating in this regard, and how assessment and payment could be enhanced.
Mr M Tau, COGTA official, said that disaster management was not about event management only, but was also to do with poverty reduction and sustainable development. Everything that COGTA had put in place for the World Cup would form a legacy for disaster and risk management processes. Disaster management should always be viewed within the context of global, regional and national development. The Department would allocate resources for proactive and reactive measures. He referred to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) which had 8 goals, 18 targets and 48 indicators, with an overall framework of five programmes of action for disaster risk reduction. The African Regional Strategy supported the achievement of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) framework. There were also Southern African Development Community (SADC) indicatives for regional development, and strategies for regional disaster risk management, to support the developmental and service delivery objectives. It was also important to consider proactive management of disaster management for sustainability, and the same applied to the funding.
He added that not all funds had been spent because of challenges around delivery of some of the products, also because of delays in the procurement processes. Discussion was held whether some of the funds could be rolled out, or should be kept for ongoing management processes. Initially the Department felt that remaining funds could be used for the establishing of centres, as well as to enhance fire centres for support of disaster risk management, as also to enhance ICT capacity to impact at local level. The Department coordinated all efforts and could report on what had been used and what was available.
Mr Tau then added to the Minister’s remarks on the status of fire services, where he conceded that there had been challenges around equipment, finances, training and recruitment of fire fighters and supervisory services. During turnaround strategy engagements it became apparent that insufficient Level 1 fire fighters were available, and that a civilian was manning the station. The Department, despite challenges, had managed to train reservists for the World Cup, and was using fire services capacity also to enhance urban search and rescue capacity. It was trying to ensure that all measures were in line with United Nations (UN) International Search and Rescue standards, and also took South Africa’s own hazard and vulnerability into account.
Mr Tau noted that COGTA was busy with the twelfth draft of the Fire Services Bill. Chapter 2 of the National Veld and Forest Fire Act said that fire protection associations had to be established, and that Fire Protection Officers (FPOs) must be appointed. In addition the Fire Brigade Services Act had to be amended. Sometimes a fire provincial officer who was not also a fire chief may have been appointed, in contravention of the legislation. The drafting team sought high-level directives whether the two pieces of legislation could be combined, and this still required final decision. Some provinces had their own rescue legislation for health services in place, but that did not apply to fire services. Policy issues also had to be discussed.
Mr Tau noted that Chapter 6 of the Disaster Management Act dealt with the issue of post disaster recovery funding. A funding mechanism was needed, and the Department was busy working on this, with National Treasury. Meantime the Department was getting funds through the adjustment process and managing funds within the government system. The adjustment period was October and November, which unfortunately meant that money might not be released quickly if a disaster happened then.
The Minister added that adjustments were made through the National Treasury Committee mandated to deal with unavoidable expenses. The Minister would approve matters outside the Treasury Committee’s function. Ultimately it was hoped that there would be a separate fund through which the matters could be handled, but discussion on this was ongoing. The approach to disaster management should change.
Mr Smith commented that these very issues had been discussed before, many times, over the past ten years. It had been suggested that instead of having a fund where moneys lay idle, it would be preferable to find a process to fast-track urgent matters. Such a process was still not in place, and there was still mention of having to wait for the adjustment budget. This was a prime example of dysfunctional government.
Mr Smith noted the Minister’s candid comment about lack of provincial capacity, and wondered what would be done about it.
Mr Smith was concerned that long moratoriums on the hiring of staff ultimately cost money and asked how the capacity constraints were to be addressed.
Mr Lorimer was interested how the Minister would assist provinces.
Mr Lorimer asked how far the Minister was able to exert pressure, noting that an official in Nelson Mandela Bay was involved in some kind of scandal around personnel services some years ago, but was permitted to resign and was given a golden handshake. He then reappeared in the Sundays River municipality, but was later dismissed from there after being disciplined on eleven charges relating to tender irregularities. If such as person was in a position of leadership, he doubted that Operation Clean Audit could ever succeed. He asked who would be responsible if Operation Clean Audit failed in Eastern Cape, the Minister or the MEC, and whether dismissals would result.
Ms Nlhengethwa asked whether any research was done on what public participation system would be implemented, and if there was any framework to assist municipalities. Committees were appointed by Parliament to go around the nine provinces to do oversight on service delivery, and she asked if COGTA followed up on their findings.
Ms Nlhengethwa asked whether there were plans to address ageing infrastructure such as pipes and wiring, and if there was a budget for this. She also asked how far COGTA was on the Urban Renewal Programme, what the criteria were and which towns had been identified.
Ms Nlhengethwa noted that the report on performance mentioned that 11% of the strategies were achieved, 30% were partially achieved and 59% were not achieved. She asked how the turnaround strategy had addressed the percentage of partially and not-achieved projects. She asked for comment on local government.
Minister Shiceka referred to Mr Smith’s comment about provincial capacity and said that COGTA had already indicated that it was dealing with this, although the problem was not limited to the COGTA sphere. He was in discussion with the Minister of Public Service and Administration. COGTA was trying to find a model of a properly-organised provincial organogram. It was necessary to look at employees, to determine whether they were capacitated, and whether the systems enabled them to fulfil their tasks. For instance, the Department of Health had no capacity to coordinate clinics and hospitals, and complaints related sometimes to structure but sometimes to inadequate individual employees. This project had slowed down but had to be resuscitated. The Department wanted to go further than its mandate to reach individuals. He was not happy with the slow pace of delivery on some matters. However, he asked the Committee to bear in mind that COGTA was not always an implementing department, but a coordinating one, relying on others to do the work. Projects clearly required project managers at local level to encourage workers to work efficiently on the ground.
The Minister assured Mr Lorimer that the concerns on Operation Clean Audit would be addressed. However, until the Municipal Assistance Bill was finalised, giving the Minister the power to address issues around employees without the necessity skills, or procedurally-incorrect appointments to be addressed, the Minister could not intervene officially. A system of government that attempted to rely on persuasion would be ineffectual. The Department would be addressing this whilst ensuring it did not undermine the autonomy of the municipalities.
The Minister reminded Ms Nlhengethwa that legislation was passed in 2008 to address public participation, and funding of ward committees, to the effect that stipends must be at least R1000 per month. Some municipalities claimed not to have this money, but funding of the committees was being taken up with the President. It was expensive, since there would be 4 277 ward committees. Her comment about Western Cape would be followed up.
The Minister asked to be provided with Committee reports on visit to provinces. He did not know about the ageing infrastructure of Bela Bela. The Department must allocate the money given to each municipality and he noted that money was given for additional grants and energy. The Department would engage with Bela Bela.
In regard to entities, the Minister noted that the Department had not previously had policies to monitor the Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities but during workshop a workshop had been held to discuss the roles and responsibilities. In addition the funding of other institutions would be reconsidered.
The Minister added that the Department was wanting to launch Municipal Public Accounts Committees (MPAC), which was Councillor-driven. He also wanted to engage further with funding bodies and on getting COGTA representation on, for instance, the DBSA Board.
Mr Afrika asked Members if he could highlight page 49 of the Annual Report, which spoke to transformation. . The Urban Renewal Programme had been launched in 2001, and this programme, as well as Integrated Sustainable Rural Development, were both intended to be ten-year programmes. Last year donors had assessed the Urban Renewal Programme, to reflect on lessons learned from the urban nodes. The technical report was now available.
Mr Afrika also addressed the fact that a tender for R10 million euros had been signed by officials, without briefing the Minister, which the Minister had subsequently learned from other officials. So far it did not seem that any research work had been carried out in townships in pursuance of this tender, nor had any information been provided after a year. The Minister requested that the report on this must be handed to him by the end of the week.
The Chairperson said that part of the rebuilding of State institutions had to be geared towards ensuring that they complied with and met objectives of service providers, and if not, then the Committee would expect COGTA to act to correct it. It was important to confront the institutions upfront, not boycott them. Development funding institutions that had an impact on local government should perhaps be invited to address the Committee, so ensure not only that resources were mobilised, but that economies of scale, such as those to be found in SITA, could be implemented. SITA could not be commercialised, as it would then not meet the objectives. The Department should address these issues.
The Chairperson noted that the very same issues on fast-tracking of disaster management were recurring. He expressed the Committee’s disappointment that government had not worked fast enough on this to speed up its responsiveness to disasters. Government had had the foresight to put over R850 billion of infrastructure on the ground, but work must be done to ensure that it was not affected by disasters, as part of complete management of those resources. The tendency to drag matters out was unacceptable. Provinces should be budgeting for this kind of disaster on a localised basis, and it was expected that the mechanisms should be in place. Speed was of the essence.
In relation to community work, the Chairperson wanted to hear about progress on building internal capacity to run programmes, as well as the progress on the programmes to date.
The Chairperson again expressed appreciation to the minister and assured him that the Committee recognised and appreciated the morale in the Department. However, the pace at which work was being done remained a challenge. Those who did their work properly should be complimented, and could serve as models for others.
The Chairperson was concerned about employment practices of municipalities, and decline in standards here, and said this must remain a priority. He wanted an indication of COGTA actions to reverse this trend, and to ensure that the right people were in place, including administrative support staff and technicians, which would address concerns around performance and service delivery.
The Chairperson noted that no formal presentation was given on financial management issues and said that at some stage COGTA should give a systematic review of Outcome 9, to plan oversight.
The Minister asked for a date to be set for a review meeting on this.
The Committee recognised the Department’s objectives, and encouraged effective consulting with institutions. The Committee would then like to have feedback.
The Minister reported briefly that in the previous week there had been a meeting with NEDLAC, and a task team was appointed to address some of the issues.
The Committee would like a report back on the Municipal Systems Amendment Bill, saying that if there were substantial changes, then the Bill may require to be reintroduced.
The Chairperson said all the issues were crucial to the BRRR. The Committee would be looking at the gender equity of the Department. The UN Report on local government and gender was very useful. He was interested also on the impact of relationships between men and women in the development programmes.
The meeting was adjourned.
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