Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs on implementation of the Local Government Turnaround Strategy & the functions of the Anti Corruption Inspectorate

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

13 February 2012
Chairperson: Ms D Nhlengethwa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The briefing by Minister Richard Baloyi defined the Local Government Turnaround Strategy (LGTAS) as a broad intervention framework to strengthen local government structures. It was approved by Cabinet in December 2009. The broad aims of LGTAS were to restore confidence in municipalities, and to build functional and accountable local government. Key objectives were to meet service needs; to promote accountability and professionalism; to improve national and provincial oversight and support and to strengthen partnerships with communities and civil society. Municipalities had been encouraged to develop their own turnaround strategies. The development of those had occurred unevenly across provinces. Post 2011 priorities were to address financial management; to fight corruption; to improve service delivery, and to promote governance. The Minister stressed that all players had to be mobilised.

In the discussion, there was concern over ghost projects that left millions unaccounted for. The lack of jurisdiction of rural municipalities was commented on, with a question about Departmental intervention. It was asked why some municipalities had not developed their own turnaround strategies, and if such municipalities still received performance bonuses. The ability to mobilise all players was questioned, as was commitment to the Integrated Development Plan. There was concern over Section 139 municipalities, where government was compelled to intervene. Financial management received attention.

The briefing on the Anti-Corruption Unit stated that the unit had been subject to limitations since its inception. It lacked a mandate to investigate corruption. It also duplicated functions of established agencies like the Special Investigations Unit. There had to be a process of re-focusing whereby the unit would fulfill the role of coordinating government-wide anti-corruption activities; promote professional ethics and enforce codes of conduct. Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs would engage in monitoring and evaluation, and provide information on corruption cases to gather data and discover trends.

In the discussion, it was asked how someone with a criminal record of squandering government funds could still be employed. It was asked how the unit would ensure that issues picked up were followed through. There was a question about cases dealt with and success stories. The same questioner opined that success with corruption cases could be measured by arrests and convictions. He asked if the unit had successfully prosecuted. The Minister gave the assurance that persons once convicted of fraud would henceforth not be employed in local government again.

Meeting report

 

Briefing by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs on implementation of the Local Government Turnaround Strategy (LGTAS)

Minister Richard Baloyi defined the LGTAS as a broad intervention framework to strengthen local government structures. It was approved by Cabinet in December 2009, after an investigation and report conveyed a bleak picture of the local government sphere. The broad aims of LGTAS were to restore the confidence of people in their municipalities, and to build a functional, accountable and developmental local government. Key strategic objectives were to meet basic service needs; to promote accountability and professionalism; to improve national and provincial oversight and support, and to strengthen partnerships with communities and civil society.

All players had to be mobilised. Municipalities had to develop their own tailor-made turnaround strategies. The public had to be encouraged to participate in local government. The development of Municipal Turnaround Strategies (MTAS) and their incorporation into Integrated Development Plans (IDP’s) was uneven across provinces. The figures for MTAS developed showed 100% for Limpopo; 98% for Kwazulu-Natal, and 25% for North West. The total figure was 75%.

Post October priorities were to address financial management; to improve service delivery; to fight against corruption, and to promote governance. Political parties and legislators had to come on board. The position of municipalities under Section 139, where government was compelled to intervene, caused concern.

With regard to the role of Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), the Minister stated that charity had to begin at home. The Department had to drive the agenda and set an example. Its failure to obtain a clean audit had to be addressed. COGTA had to be organised to fight corruption.

Discussion

The Chairperson remarked that the presentation had confirmed uncertainties about the LGTAS. Corruption in municipalities had to be unearthed. There had to be clarity about suspensions in Gauteng.

Nkosi Z Mandela (ANC) said that the seriousness of the crisis was evident. He had served on the Ad Hoc Committee for Service Delivery that had gone to East London in 2010. There had been R140 million unaccounted for in the Auditor General (AG) report. That amount had since increased to R2 billion. Action had not been taken to further local turnaround strategies. Municipalities used government funds in ghost projects. People were not held accountable. He asked what the Minister’s office intended to do.

Nkosi Mandela further stated that the jurisdiction of municipalities in rural areas was problematic. Services were made available to urban areas that did not reach rural spaces. There were challenges of service delivery to rural areas. In the Greening Project to clear litter, bins were declared to be only for Mtata residents. Municipalities were isolated. Community service was only rendered to some. He asked in what way the Department intervened. LGTAS was discussed year after year, but there was a lack of implementation. The Committee had to see for itself what challenges were at a certain time, and what the turnaround strategies were. Deterioration could be seen all the time in the sphere of local government. People were asking what the use of the entity was.

The Minister responded that the isolation of rural communities would receive attention. Traditional community development would be looked at. Municipal infrastructures needed urgent support. The clean city campaign was also aimed at rural areas. In Buffalo City, actors and community would be mobilised through SALGA. Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) had to provide well oiled mechanisms for implementation of LGTAS.

Mr G Boinamo (DA) asked whether implemented strategies yielded desired outcomes. There was poor service delivery.

Ms M Segale-Diswai (ANC) said that a series of slides did not constitute a document. She was concerned the turnaround strategy had been announced in 2009. She asked why some municipalities had not developed turnaround strategies, whether that was because people had refused. She asked if performance management bonuses were still received in such municipalities. Finance management was prioritised in the report. Members lived in communities and could see what happened in municipalities. After the municipal elections there was lavish spending for mayors. Cars and accommodation were hired for them at cost. It had to be stated which provinces did not develop turnaround strategies. She asked how the 100% municipalities were performing. 2012 could not be a year for business as usual. There had to be change.

The Chairperson remarked that in South African Local Government Association (SALGA) workshops some municipalities had said that they did not have a clue how to develop a turnaround strategy. She asked if the Department had gone through the SALGA report, and what provincial governments were doing to assist municipalities.

The Chairperson further stated that the previous presentation had only indicated structures, but no movement. There had been no mention of role players to be mobilised. Housing was resorted to local government, and in her constituency of Krissiesmeer, houses promised to women and the disabled had not been up to standard. Role players had to account. There were clearly visible cracks, but the provincial department of housing had said that it could not see a problem. If a technical team denied a problem, the report had to be withdrawn. She had seen the cracks for herself. A following meeting had to indicate some progress and report on who had been mobilised.

The Minister replied that there would be reporting on which players had been mobilised where. Councillors had to meet with communities once per quarter, or face community revolt. There would be a report from municipalities in the first quarter.

 

Ms W Nelson (ANC) said that finance management had come up as a pre- and post 2011 priority. She asked about processes to improve income and revenue generation. She asked about commitment to the Integrated Development Plan (IDP). There had been protest in communities from other spheres of government about lack of commitment in government at the provincial and national level. There were junior municipal officers in IDP who were not equipped to deal with their task. Local government was at the coalface, when provincial government withdrew support, there were major challenges.

Ms Nelson asked if rural municipalities were getting financial support for developing their own turnaround strategies. The picture with regard to municipalities classed under Section 139, was looking even bleaker than before, in spite of staff appointed and fired.

The Minister replied that norms and standards for finance management had to be developed. Ministers were guided by the ministerial handbook about procurement. There had to be a similar tool for councillors. Pre- and post 2011 challenges were equally serious, that could only be faced through teamwork.

In terms of the IDP there had to be a shift from pre 2011. Thus far the IDP draft document had been drawn up by consultants. There was no need to spend millions on that. The IDP had to reflect the popular voice. It had to be simplified.

The Chairperson noted that there were a huge number of Section 139 municipalities. She proposed that a fully fledged report be given about them.

Mr J Matshoba (ANC) suggested that poor municipalities receive help before being classified as Section 139. He asked about the R170 million unaccounted for in Buffalo City. The fight against corruption had to be visible.

Ms Segale asked about the post of Director General in the Department.

The Minister replied that there had to be a detailed list that distinguished between municipalities which had turnaround strategies, and those that did not. There was a need to show what had been done. An assessment process would run across every quarter. The key questions to ask municipalities were what their situation was like when turnaround commenced, and what had been done about challenges. COGTA had to work with provincial governments, not in isolation. There was as yet no assessment study of the 60 municipalities in KZN that had turnaround strategies.

The Minister continued that strategies could be implemented once confidence in municipalities had been restored. The slogan had to be “my municipality, my service”. There had to be performance monitoring at the level of COGTA. His own performance agreement with the DG would be based on. LGTAS. Municipalities had to take the blame for performance of outside actors. There had to be rules of engagement for public participation. When Xenophobia was a public issue, a boy of scarcely 10 years old had declared that people from outside were taking the wives of locals. Establishment of rules of engagement were part of state transformation.

The Minister stated that bureaucratic arrogance hindered quarterly reporting. Officials would say that national and provincial government did not understand. Many officials were highly qualified, but there was no clear synchronisation between degrees and performance. Such people tended to hide behind jargon.

The Minister noted with regard to Section 139, that MEC’s placed municipalities under Section 139. There was the case of a municipality where a newly elected mayor had been forced to withdraw. The Mayor of Makhado had received a letter from the youth section of a political party that informed him that his power would be removed, and the municipality placed under Section 139. Technical support was needed from COGTA. There was an Eastern Cape success story where a Section 139 municipality had attended to its problems, significantly by appointing a representative from traditional affairs.

Nkosi Mandela reminded the department of questions about the filling of the post of DG, and asked for a report about the R2 billion unaccounted funds in Buffalo City.

Briefing by the Minister on the Anti-Corruption Inspectorate

The Minister defined the briefing to be on the re-focused role of the anti-corruption unit, in line with the broader mandate of CoGTA. The Inspectorate had been subject to limitations since its establishment. It did not have the mandate to investigate corruption. It had failed to develop partnership agreements with agencies mandated to investigate corruption. There was also duplication of the functions of established agencies like the Special Investigating Unit (SIU); the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD), and the Ministry of Police.

A refocussed approach would be informed by the cooperative governance role of CoGTA. There would be a future focus on coordinating government-wide anti-corruption activities. A further focus would be on the promotion of professional ethics, and the enforcement of codes of conduct. The CoGTA role in monitoring and evaluation had to be strengthened. Readily available information on cases of corruption had to be produced to gather data and discover trends.

The Minister noted that he had asked the anti-corruption unit to talk to him about their roles. The Inspectorate could form part of a multi-agency group created by the National Treasury. It could assist in creating an IT system to assist the Treasury, and in the appointment of ethics officers at municipalities. An important issue was dealing with patronage in the form of jobs for friends. The Inspectorate was committed to forensic auditing, but lacked a legal mandate. The question was how to get the SIU to conduct forensic audits. The Inspectorate could operate in the same manner as the Independent Complaints Directorate. Peer countries in Africa had in the past asked who coordinated anti-corruption investigations in this country. The Inspectorate could fulfill that role. There had to be re-skilling; re-training and re-focusing towards that end.

Discussion

Nkosi Mandela asked how it came about that an electrician became a mayor in a certain municipality. With regard to fraud, he asked how a municipality could see its way open to employ someone with a criminal record of squandering state money. If the municipality retained such a person, what could the Department do about it? In the Great Kei, in 2010, a mayor had opened five fraud cases on officials. He asked what had been done to finalise those cases.

The Minister replied with regard to employing someone with a criminal fraud record, that GOGTA needed a mechanism to deal with that. If the employment instrument said no, that verdict had to be adhered to.

The Minister continued that specialised professional skills became less relevant as an individual moved up the appointment ladder. Whether an electrician could succeed as manager depended on competency. Such a manager had had the experience of supervising other electricians as he walked his way up. But as a manager he would not be doing specialised electrician work. There was a movement from the specific to the general.

 

The Chairperson added that the Bill stipulated requirements for managers. The electrician as manager would have to qualify. He could acquire other competencies. There was some control over minimum qualifications through the Act or regulation. She asked about cases attended to.

The Minister replied that 292 cases had been investigated. It had to be seen as work in progress.

The Chairperson said that a previous situation had been highlighted to show the lack of a legal mandate to fight corruption. She asked about the latest developments. She asked about forensic audits. It had been said that COGTA could coordinate. SALGA could assist in drawing up a code of conduct for all municipalities. Corruption was based in behaviour. Relations with unions who defended the corrupt, had to be examined. She commended correction of existing instruments, and increased knowledge of how to use them. She asked about programmes to continue monitoring.

The Minister answered that the slogan “My union is my partner” could not hold true if the union defended transgressors. The question was whether unions were aware of the transgressions.

Ms Nelson opined that the crucial question was how the Department could ensure that issues picked up would be followed through and referred to the relevant unit, and ensure a time frame.

Nkosi Mandela reiterated the question by Ms Segale about how many cases the unit had dealt with, and how many success stories there were.

Mr Boinamo protested that the unit had been formed only to discover that it had no mandate. No feasability study had been done to see if the unit could deal with crime. He asked how much had been paid for what he termed a useless unit.

The Minister replied that it was more a matter of the unit being given the wrong tools to work with. There was duplication of the work of other entities. The unit drew its power from Chapter 3 of the Constitution. Power had to be located. The unit could not become an administrator of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU). It was not to play a secondary role. The guiding framework would be public sector anti-corruption strategies. That framework recognised that public officials were involved with private firms that did business with government. That had to be declared. But the disclosure mechanism could also be used to shield corruption.

The Minister reiterated that the unit had been given the wrong instrument. Leaders had to empower them. Corruption had become so big that strategies to deal with it had to be refined. Officials suspected of fraud could not be employed. He likened corruption to an organism like an amoeba that changed shape to engulf. The question was what would happen if agents were to be drawn in through being appointed. He suggested that there be a cooling off period of two years for agents who had been employed in corruption investigations.

Nkosi Mandela remarked that firing someone for fraud did not deal properly with the matter. Success could eventually be measured by how many had been arrested and put behind bars. He urged that there be prosecution. He asked if that was being done. Nothing prevented an official from the Eastern Cape who had been fired, from finding work in Limpopo.

The Minister gave the assurance that it would be done. It would be done in accordance with an anti-corruption mechanism. Municipal leaders were inclined to not report on fraud, for fear of destroying someone’s future. The result would be a settlement. COGTA could not be everybody’s friend. Once fraudulent, a person remained a criminal. If cases were reported, the unit had to work with other agencies. All provincial offices had to work with SALGA for implementation of a code of conduct. SALGA had to assist municipalities to prosecute staff.

The Chairperson noted that people from Manenberg had complained the previous week that there had been no one from the Department to assist them with an issue. She asked for assistance to the Mpumalanga disaster. The Committee would go to Manenberg the following Monday, and report back.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.

 

 

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