The Department of Cooperative Governance briefed the Portfolio Committee on the overview and progress of the Regulations for Appointment of Municipal Managers. The Department had conducted an assessment on the “State of Local Government in South Africa” in 2009. This assessment, amongst other things, revealed capacity constraints and weaknesses in governance and institutional performance. The Department had adopted the Local Government Turnaround Strategy in 2009 designed to restore confidence in municipalities, of which the Municipal Systems Amendment Bill was one outcome. The subsequent Municipal Systems Amendment Act 2011 provided enabling powers for the Minister to regulate a wide range of human resource matters, including the regulation of appointments, duties, remuneration, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment of municipal managers and Section 56 managers.
In order to give effect to the Amendment Act, the Department in collaboration with the South African Local Government Association had undertaken a considerable amount of work towards the development of draft regulations and had completed almost 70 % of the work. Upon finalisation of the competence model and remuneration framework the Regulations would be published for comment by end April 2012.
Members asked if the framework targets would be met by the end of April. Queries were also raised about interim and transitional measures in the run up to the start of the Act. The consultation processes were also queried. The Committee also wanted to know how the Department would ensure compliance with these regulations. Members also made comments on corruption and fraud challenges facing local government.
Regulations for Appointment of Municipal Managers and Section 56 Managers: Department briefing
Ms Shanaaz Majiet, Deputy Director-General General, briefed the Portfolio Committee on the processes to finalise drafting and promulgation of the Regulations for Appointment of Municipal Managers and Section 56 Managers. An assessment on the ‘State of Local Government’ had revealed capacity constraints and weaknesses in governance and institutional performance ranging from – the burgeoning outstanding debt; weak financial controls and negative audit outcomes; under-expenditure on capital budgets, high incidence of irregular and inappropriate appointments; low resources and financial capacity ; high turnover and vacancies; and ineffective leadership and institutional management. In response to these challenges the Department had adopted a Turnaround Strategy in 2009. This was designed to restore confidence in municipalities. The subsequent Municipal Systems Amendment Act 2011 had the intention of not only solving the challenges faced by local government but also building a committed workforce with the necessary intellectual capacity, competencies and experience to help deepen democracy and accountability as well as improve service delivery to communities. The Amendment Act also sought to outline Government’s resolve to professionalise local public administration to ensure fair, efficient, effective and transparent municipal administration.
The regulations intended to realise the spirit and intent of the Amendment Act in creating a career local public administration governed by the values and principles of public administration as enshrined in Chapter 10 of the Constitution, including a high standard of professionalism. The regulations also sought to improve the capacity of municipalities to perform their functions and improve service delivery by ensuring that municipalities recruited and retained suitably qualified persons, especially managers with scarce skills.
The draft regulations had been consulted with trade unions, professional bodies (Engineering Council of South Africa, South African Institute of Accountants and the Institute of Municipal Financial Managers, amongst others). Upon finalisation of the competence model and remuneration framework the Regulations would be published for public comment by end of April 2012, submitted to Parliament 30 days before gazetting ( Section 120(7) of the Act), published in the Government Gazette on 01 July 2012 for implementation and thereafter rolled out and municipalities supported on implementation to ensure consistent interpretation and application.
Mr P Smith (IFP) welcomed the presentation and asked how the Regulations would deal with discipline and suspension of staff without pay. He also inquired about whether non-South Africans would be considered for positions. It was noted that earlier there was vociferous condemnation of the Bill and asked whether consensus has been reached for the Amendment Act. Transitional mechanisms that would enable the smooth implementation of the Amendment Act were also inquired. The question of whether the Department would meet the targets set in the Act by the end of April.
Mr J Steenhuizen (DA) noted that practical problems in implementing the Amendment Act existed and that a competency model was needed that would ensure that persons with the right educational qualifications were employed. Lack of skilled personnel in rural areas remained a huge challenge. He asked a question on interim measures on how people who did not meet the requirements would be dealt with and pointed out that the risk of being stuck with people who were against the intended purpose of the Regulations existed. He welcomed the inclusion of a disciplinary process and urged the Department to find mechanisms for municipalities to see through the disciplinary process.
Mr T Bonhomme (ANC) pointed out that the Regulations were encouraging but it was virtually impossible to meet some of the requirements. He emphasised that relocation of corrupt and incompetent officials was intolerable and should be stopped. He hoped that this Bill would not allow that.
Ms W Nelson (ANC) noted that this was a fantastic policy but wanted to know how the Department would ensure compliance with these Regulations.
Nkosi Z Mandela (ANC) was sceptical that the targets would be met. He noted that money was continuously being unaccounted for and cited Buffalo City where over R2 billion was unaccounted for. He was interested in what policies would be put in place to ensure culprits were held accountable. A firm indication was needed from the Department to hold people accountable. Fraud and corruption needed to be sorted out.
Ms I Ditshetelo (UCDP) asked if the Department had consulted trade unions on the draft regulations and wanted to know their inputs. She inquired whether inputs from members of the community were taken during the public consultation phases. The question of how the corrupt officials would be dealt with was also raised.
Mr J Matshoba (ANC) was worried about the Department’s oversight process. He pointed out that some municipalities were violating the Municipal Systems Act.
Mr T Buinamo (DA) noted that municipalities were facing serious challenges and noted that the adoption of a turnaround strategy must deal with the restoration of confidence in the running of municipalities. He pointed out that persons who were corrupt should not be rewarded and gave an example of a corrupt municipal official who acted in violation of the Municipal statute but was given a new position in a different municipality.
The Chairperson raised the issue of how monitoring, implementation and compliance with the regulations would be done. She asked whether the Municipalities would be work shopped on these Regulations. The Chairperson inquired if the consultation process was at national or provincial level. Concern was expressed about the time frameworks. It was noted that the presentation was short and she questioned whether it had dealt with issues in the Regulations. The issue of violations of the Municipal Systems Act was also re-emphasised. She pointed out that the Committee would conduct its oversight and monitoring role to ensure that Municipalities worked within the legislative framework.
The Deputy Director-General noted that in an ideal situation when a piece of legislation was passed it should be complete with its regulations. But in this situation there had been a gap period in which the regulations only followed later on. Guidance, clarity and legal certainty would be provided by the Regulations. She also noted that the Department would learn from the good practice of other pieces of legislation which had worked. It was acknowledged that the process had not been smooth sailing and challenges and political friction had occurred with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA). Discussions were under way with SALGA to resolve some of the sticky points around interpretation issues. The implementation of the Regulations would be a litmus test of the Department in its appetite to restore confidence in local government.
Mr Jackey Maepa, Senior Manager: Local Government Policy Systems, who was described as the anchor person in the drafting of the Regulations noted that the disciplinary measures on municipal managers were promulgated on 21 April 2011 after an extensive consultation process. Workshops had been conducted to assist municipalities.
The Chairperson wanted to know the provinces in which the workshops had been conducted.
It was pointed out that workshops were conducted in seven out of the nine provinces. Only Western Cape and Gauteng did not have workshops. All the municipalities in these provinces attended.
Mr Steenhuizen noted that municipalities were facing challenges and workshops were necessary in order to solve these problems.
Ms M Segale-Diswai (ANC) suggested that the Department must forward a report on these workshops.
Mr Maepa pointed out that of all the institutions consulted consensus had been reached and the practical challenges with smaller municipalities would be assisted by the Municipal Systems Act in terms of attaining staff with the competent skills. A remuneration model would be developed mostly for rural municipalities so as to enable them to attract competent staff. The Municipal Systems Amendment Act allowed the Minister to relax the Regulations in terms of employing people with scarce skills.
Mr Steenhuizen noted that the problem was the attraction of staff with the competent skills and the Department should not relax the Regulations but look for innovative ways to attract staff with scarce skills. The deviation from the Regulations was a wrong angle in approaching the issue.
Ms Nelson asked if the Department was assisting small municipalities, bearing in mind that all municipalities were autonomous.
Mr Smith reiterated his question on transitional mechanisms. He wanted to know of proactive steps to deal with the transition.
Mr Kevin Naidoo, Executive Manager: Local Government Support, gave an example of a Western Cape Shared Municipalities system. Most municipalities did conduct shared services; Inter-municipal programmes were also conducted in KwaZulu-Natal. The Department was opening discussions around shared services
Ms Majiet pointed out that memoranda of understanding would be drafted to deal with the issue of autonomy. She noted that clarification in terms of sharing of services assisted in acceptance of the programme by municipalities as the benefits were quite vast. Best practice across all provinces would be shared. Deviation was not the most desirable solution as the Department wanted to rid itself of mediocrity. Academic institutions would also assist in grooming some of the staff required in the municipalities. The Regulations allowed for the employment of South African citizens or holders of permanent residence.
Mr Maepa said it was important to ensure standardised interpretation and understanding of the Municipal Systems Act. The minimum requirements and core managerial competencies would continue being administered by municipalities. Documents of appointments of managers must be submitted to the Members of the Executive Councils (MECs) who in turn would submit to the Minister. A competency model for local government was being developed and a draft model would be out soon. Regulations were also being dealt with the remuneration of municipal managers so as to make them competitive with other metropolitans. A database, which blacklisted all municipal officials involved in fraudulent or corrupt officials, was flagged.
The Chairperson asked if there were some cases that have been submitted to the Minister in terms of the Municipal Systems Act to allow for his intervention.
Ms Majiet said that a Unit would be put in place to review on a regular basis the appointments that had been made. The Unit would monitor appointments in terms of the Act.
Ms Nelson asked if any work has been done in terms of the blacklisting of people. She pointed out that this should have been done immediately after the local government elections last year.
Ms Majiet admitted that the Department was behind schedule. Changes of transition needed to be managed. A fresh mandate was important as the timeline was pushed backward. She noted that the Department regretted this. The Regulations should have been out by the end of the last financial year and now an extreme sense of urgency was present. The compliance period as required by law was 30 days. The competency model and remuneration model were currently being finalised and active work was currently going into that.
Mr Smith asked for the legal steps that would be followed to deal with persons who had been employed irregularly.
Ms Nelson asked if the Amendment Act would not supersede the regulations.
Mr Steenhuizen noted that the Department must be wary of the lacunae [gaps] that might exist and should try by all means to be vigilant so as to stop re-occurrence of the same challenges in future.
Mr Bonhomme noted that loopholes must be closed so as to ensure that people would not take advantage of the situation.
Ms Segale Diswai urged the Department to do a review of the Municipal Systems Act.
Ms Majiet noted that many municipalities had already appointed managers permanently and the Regulations did not apply retrospectively. She pointed out the professionalisation of career civil servants. Loopholes would be looked at and the drawing up of a database would be expedited. Short listing of candidates by the municipality would be done against this database
Mr Maepa said that these Regulations were a move toward standardisation in the civil service sector. The Municipal Performance Regulations required managers to sign performance indicators and this provided platforms to monitor the performance outcomes. It was pointed out that municipalities would be taken to task in terms of accountability in appointments.
The Chairperson asked for further discussion of the issues and SALGA would be invited for the discussions.
The meeting was adjourned.
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