Municipal Systems Amendment Act regulations delay: Departments of Traditional Affairs and Cooperative Governance response to State of Nation Address

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

25 February 2013
Chairperson: Ms W Nelson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The briefing by the Department of Traditional Affairs (DTA) on the State of the Nation Address (SONA), noted that traditional, Khoi and San leadership featured. Other issues included infrastructure development, especially noting the high unemployment levels for women and youth in the rural areas. The DTA took note of the need to manage the new wave of urbanisation in ways that would contribute to rural development. Traditional and Khoi and San leaders had to be assisted to participate in socio economic activities and to develop tourism activities, and to promote education. The DTA would conduct an audit of heritage sites to restore land. Lifestyle diseases and HIV and Aids had to receive attention from traditional structures.
 
The briefing by the Department of Cooperative Governance on SONA implications, stressed the centrality of the National Development Plan (NDP). Infrastructure and urban development were key issues. A job creation focus had to be established in local governments. Communal land management and support for small business were stressed. The DCoG were developing a framework for Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) for municipalities. The Community Works Programme (CWP) had to be implemented, and a professional culture in municipalities that was intolerant to corruption.

In discussion, Members felt that the commitments made were ambitious, but unrealistic. They asked what had happened to previous SONA priorities. Municipal skills and the shortage of engineers caused general concern, as did levy rates and taxes in rural areas. The Departments were criticised for lack of appropriate action against corruption. There was a question about graduate recruitment for municipalities. A DA member questioned the inclusion of Western lawyers in traditional systems. There were questions about moving away from a silo approach among departments. Financing of municipalities caused concern. The DCoG responded that they had been unclear about Portfolio Committee expectations and would deal with these questions on 5 March. There was a question about Departmental engagement with traditional councils to ensure that women and youth benefit from large building projects. There was a question about the retention of rural people through taking development to the rural areas.
  
The DCoG spoke about the readiness of the regulations for the Municipal Systems Amendment Act which could not be promulgated until the regulations were in place. A two-pronged approach had been followed, with regulations for senior managers being dealt with in 2012/13, and for other staff in 2013/14. There had been consultations with SALGA, unions and professional bodies. The DCoG were currently in Phase 2 of the project, which dealt with the development of working policy papers, and the deliberations of the project team and technical specialists.

In discussion, Members were visibly upset about the slow pace of drafting regulations. The Act had been signed by the President in July 2011 but the Chairperson emphasised that the Act could not be brought into operation without regulations. The DCoG capacity to do the job was questioned. The DCoG responded that accountability rested with the executive authority. Reasons for delays could only be discussed with the executive authority present.

Meeting report

Department of Traditional Affairs response to the State of the Nation Address
Professor Charles Nwaila, Director General, noted that the issue of traditional, Khoi and San leadership was raised in the State of the Nation Address (SONA). This had implications for the Department of Traditional Affairs (DTA)  who would translate the relevant SONA thrusts into its activities and Annual Performance Plan (APP). Issues raised under infrastructure development had been that the highest unemployment level was prevalent in rural areas among women and children. Under rural development amid rapid urbanisation, the DTA would assist to manage the new wave of urbanisation in ways that contributed to rural development, and would ensure that traditional leaders participate in socio economic development. Tourism was identified as a job driver in the SONA. The DTA would support traditional, Khoi and San leadership to develop tourism activities. The DTA would support the National House of Traditional Leaders to make inputs on the Bill on Gender Equality and Women Empowerment.

With regard to education, the DTA would gather information to ensure that traditional and Khoi and San structures play a critical role. The DTA would conduct an audit of land heritage sites to ensure that they were restored. Lifestyle diseases, HIV and Aids would form part of the Traditional Leadership Empowerment  Programme toolkit to be rolled out in 2013/14.

Department of Cooperative Governance (DCoG) response to State of Nation Address
Mr Themba Fosi, Deputy Director General, Policy and Research, said that the National Development Plan (NDP); infrastructure development; urban development and community protests and interaction were highlighted in the SONA. The DCoG had to assist with cultivating a job creation focus in local government. There had to be a review of the way in which communal land was managed. Municipalities required more land for development. The DCoG had to render support to small business. The new wave of urbanisation had to be managed. The Department would assist to develop a revised Integrated Development Plan (IDP) framework for municipalities. Access to basic services had to be improved. The DCoG had to ensure that the Community Work Programme (CWP) was implemented. They had to assist with creating a professional culture in municipalities that was intolerant of unethical conduct, fraud and corruption. It had to be ensured that the financial capabilities of municipalities were enhanced.
 
Discussion
Mr V Smith (ANC) commented that the presentations were ambitious, but unrealistic. Every year in the State of the Nation Address (SONA) there was a re-focus on areas which were permanent focus areas. The question was what had happened to the priorities set out the year before. There were matters handed down from the past, that were still challenges, such as the shortage of skills at municipal level, especially the shortage of municipal engineers.

Prof Nwaila responded that a lot of work had been done on the traditional affairs deal. There had been consultation across the country, especially to get the views of Khoi and San communities. Different structures such as the Council of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (CONTRALESA) had been consulted. The deal was submitted for pre-certification and was found to be constitutional. The costing of the deal had been finalised. There were 320 000 people living in Khoi and San communities, of which 1% would be granted traditional leader status. The Khoi and San would be united through researching their cultural heritage. The SA Language Council dealt with language aspects. Khoi and San government was being coordinated. There was ongoing work performed on this. The Department could not reflect on what had been done previously, today. That would be done when Annual Development Plans (ADPs) were presented.

Mr Fosi added that the expectations of the Portfolio Committee had not been understood. More detail could be provided. He noted with regard to previous priorities, that work continued on Medium-term Strategic Framework (MTSF) priorities, towards specific targets. Work was being done about communal land. Municipalities with challenges could not collect revenue. The targets on pages 6 and 7 would indicate where the Department was.

Ms Shanaaz Majiet, DCoG Deputy Deputy Director-General: Provincial and Municipal Government Support said that in future the PLO would ask beforehand what details the Committee expected. The Annual Performance Plan (APP) would be presented on 5 March.

Mr Smith referred to the mention of the levying of rates and taxes on page 6. The way it was phrased made it clear that rates on property was a wealth tax. The question was how such values were going to be determined.

Mr Smith referred to the targets set out on page 10. Targets had to be realistic. It would not do to realise in ten months' time that a target would only be reached the following year.

Mr Smith referred to appropriate action taken against corruption. No action had ever been taken against transgressors. He asked what was currently being done differently. There were high tenders awarded in Limpopo without a word from the department.

Mr Fosi replied that the Department lacked a mandate to fight corruption. The cornerstone of their approach was to establish partnerships with security agencies.
 
Mr Smith referred to clean audits. The Department had stated for the preceding three years that they were working on the equitable share review, and were suddenly saying that it would be ready the following year.

Mr J Steenhuizen (DA) said that he was worried about the fact that the importance of the National Development Plan in the SONA was not mentioned. The NDP was at the heart of the SONA. It had to be unpacked how the DTA and DCoG aligned themselves with the NDP.

Mr Fosi responded that the next Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) would reflect concrete achievements with alignment of departmental APPs with the NDP. The Department had to be strengthened at the district level.

Mr Steenhuizen asked about the role of district municipalities. He asked how municipalities went about to recruit graduates into local government, and what was done to make people want to make government a career, in terms of the NDP. He felt that the NDP had not been taken on board.

Ms Majiet said that the making a career of local government, would be looked into. It could contribute to professionalising the state.

Mr Steenhuizen commented that lofty ideals about anti-corruption had been expressed. Yet the Portfolio Committee was still waiting for a report on the Anti-corruption Forum. It seemed to have changed into something quite different from what was intended. The Committee was not being informed about successes. The Committee had requested a report the previous year on which officials charged under the PFMA and found guilty,had gone to jail. Mr Smith had alluded to the fact that there were no consequences for transgressors, and the Auditor General (AG) was saying the same. Mechanisms were in place, but nothing was happening.

Mr Fosi replied that the Anti-corruption Forum was chaired by the Treasury, and worked with units like the Hawks. A lot of work was being done.

Mr Steenhuizen remarked that he was skeptical about time frames for clean audits. There had been regression in Kwazulu Natal.

Ms M Segale (ANC) said that the SONA did not talk about anything new. The Committee wanted to be informed about progress with ongoing concerns, and the direction the departments were taking. The last page of the DCoG report mentioned outstanding debts. They had been there for some time. A policy had only been developed since 2009. The Committee had to be told about improvements. It was not enough to say that a policy was being developed.

Ms Segale remarked that departments had budgets for Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) but it did not contribute to the IDP. She asked about integration of infrastructure implementation.

Ms Segale said that she was disappointed with the lack of clarity about deadlines. The two departments were saying that they were doing things, but the Committee could not monitor progress because deadlines were lacking. There had to be specific and detailed follow-ups.

Ms I Ditshetelo (UCDP) remarked that since the President had talked about CoGTA, the Departments would have more to say about progress made. That was especially true of matters like the reading of meters.

Mr G Boinamo (DA) remarked that the current SONA was informed by the previous year’s one. The Committee only got repetitions of what had been said the previous year. The department had a mandate to continue traditional culture. It had to be “continued”, and not “concocted”. He asked why Western lawyers had been brought into the traditional African system.

Prof Nwaila replied that the matter of lawyers would be addressed, under the heading of the integration of heritage culture and Western Culture.

Mr Boinamo referred to the matter of pay for traditional leaders. By nature, traditional leaders were supported by tribes. They could not leave to go out and work for salaries. They were engaged in daily activities like solving disputes. If they could no longer be supported by tribes they had to get paid.

Mr Boinamo referred to the President’s call for protests to be peaceful. Violence had increased during the first term. Nothing had been said about government's position with regard to protesters who violated the rights of others. He asked about the concrete steps taken. There was serious violence. People who were not involved had died, and businesses and vehicles were burnt out.

The Chairperson remarked that everyone was saying the same things. There was nothing new. The President had given the focus areas, but they were not new. The question was what had been done about urban development, as well as about improved sector coordination. The Committee had pointed to departments operating as silos. She asked what had been done to improve the situation.

The Chairperson asked what had happened about the requirement that invoices be paid within 30 days. That was also not a new problem. The Department had to tell them about the problems experienced.

The Chairperson noted that differentiation was another long standing issue. The Minister had spoken about it since the beginning of the current term. The Treasury had also commented on it. She asked for an input from the Department about equitable sharing. It had to be specific, and not just an open ended statement.

Mr Fosi replied that the Equitable Share Review was headed by the Treasury. There would be a report about what went into the new formula.

The Chairperson asked about developments with the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agency (MISA) and the Government Information Technology Officers (GITOs) since the previous term. The Committee had asked about municipal diagnosis long before. The Committee had also been speaking for a long time about the development of technical capacity and skills training. She referred to a municipal skills department that was headed by a person with only a diploma. More experience was needed to head up a technical unit. Finance and HR problems were discussed, but there was a lack of artisans in municipalities. Principles were not applied. The achievements of the Department were not heard about.

Prof Nwaila replied that an account of Annual Performance Plan (APP) would be given in March.

The Chairperson remarked about the finance capabilities of municipalities. Lots of municipalities were broke. There was a task team to help collect monies owed to them. A municipality recently had to run an advertisement in a newspaper that ESKOM would cut power in middle March because of debts.

Mr J Matshoba (ANC) said that job creation was failing, especially in Kwazulu Natal. He asked what the Department was doing. R57 million for sanitation had remained unused in the Eastern Cape. Things started up and then stopped.

Nkosi Z Mandela (ANC) noted that the developmental aspect emphasised high unemployment rates among women and children. He asked if the Mandela Bridge project had been visited and traditional councils met with about their perception of the empowerment of youth and women. He asked about job opportunities for women and youth attached to the building of the Umtata Airport. There had to be engagement with traditional authorities for capacity building.

Nkosi Mandela continued that the vast tract of land around the Umzimvubu Dam involved Amapondo traditional councils. He asked about a departmental analysis of the project, and how traditional councils could have proper structures for youth and women to benefit from.

Nkosi Mandela referred to violence that targetted women and children. He asked what was being done in municipalities and traditional councils to empower women against challenges, and a strategy to curb violence.

Prof Nwaila responded that the DTA had been gathering from traditional leaders since 2011 what they wanted to focus on. There was a consolidated report. On 1 April it would be taken to all the traditional houses for an account of the findings. It could be identified what was broken. There were 78 traditional councils in the Umzimvubu area. A team in Limpopo were gathering information to inform progress. It would be reflected on in the 5 March meeting. There were rural development programmes designed to remove early blockages. Progress would be reported on 5 March.

Mr T Bonhomme (ANC) referred to community participation to fight corruption in municipalities. Corruption occurred at the top, the ordinary worker did not know about it. The AG knew, however.

Mr Steenhuizen asked about the staffing of the DCoG Anti-corruption unit.

Mr D Mavunda (ANC) remarked that clarity was needed about strategies of implementation, and National department policy making. The President had singled out rural development as a priority. The Department had said that there was an integrated urban development framework in place to accommodate new arrivals from the rural areas. He asked what strategies were followed. People were migrating to the urban areas for jobs. He asked what was in place to retain rural people, and what was being done to make things happen in the rural areas. It was an intergovernmental problem. He asked what the department was doing to assist.

The Chairperson remarked that Mr Mavunda’s question could perhaps be dealt with better in the meeting on 5 March.

Ms Majiet responded that the Department were not promising "heaven and earth" on 5 March. The question would be answered how their Annual Performance Plan reflected the National Development Plan. There were some questions that had to be asked of other portfolios. The Department would comment on behind the scenes observations made about the regulation of protest marches. The urban/rural shift was important. The Department did not juxtapose rural and urban as binary. The question was what contribution urban development could make to rural development. Urban development issues had been brought to a halt three years before, because it had become stuck on the urban/rural bias.

The Chairperson noted that the Committee would get questions it would like answered, through to the Departments by the following Thursday. Committee oversight during January had brought to light a water problem at Ermelo. The Committee wanted to ask if that municipality was not part of the MISA programme. There had been requests about the pipeline since 2010/11. CoGTA had to consult with Water Affairs about the cost of a temporary pipeline. Finance reports had to include monthly Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) expenditure. Where there were problems, they had to be gone through province by province.

Municipal Systems Amendment Act regulations for municipal staff systems and procedures
Mr Kevin Naidoo, Chief Director, Provincial and Municipal Support, briefed the Committee on progress made with the drafting of uniform regulations. The Municipal Systems Act as amended, empowered the Minister to make regulations to provide for the setting of uniform standards. A two-pronged approach to the implementation of the Municipal Systems Act had been adopted. Regulations setting out conditions of service for senior managers would be developed during the 2012/13 financial year. Regulations applicable to all other staff would be developed during the 2013/14 financial year.

Mr Naidoo noted briefings to the Portfolio Committee, and matters raised. There were consultations with SALGA, unions and professional bodies, which included SAMWU and IMATU. Professional bodies included the Engineering Council of South Africa; the South African Institute for Civil Engineers (SAICE); the Institute for Local Government Managers (ILGM), and the Institute for Municipal Financial Managers (IMFO). The DCoG was currently engaged with Phase 2 of the project, namely the development of working policy papers, and the facilitation of deliberations of the project team and technical specialists.

Discussion
Mr Steenhuizen remarked that the regulations were already two and a half years overdue. The Minister had made promises in the previous year’s budget speech, but deadlines had not been met. Now they had been pushed back from March to May. He asked what consultation there had to be after 21 March. It was going to be a short year in Parliament. Care had to be taken that the process not be put off until March/April 2014. He asked who was in charge of the process.

Ms Segale said that it had taken long to find out how the Department would deal with issues covered by regulations, and now it would take longer. There was a lot happening with appointments by municipalities. The Committee needed something to help them in their oversight.

Mr Bonhomme remarked that naming and shaming of those guilty of corruption, had to be included in the regulations.

The Chairperson agreed that the process should have been finalised a long time before. The Minister had said that it only had to go to MinMEC. Legislation could not be promulgated without regulations. It was an indictment on the Municipal Systems Amendment Act. There had been municipalities without managers since 2009. The matter had to stand over for the Minister.

Mr Matshoba questioned the capacity of the Department to do the job.

Ms Majiet replied that accountability rested with the executive. The Department had been in a state of flux. The current executive had been there since 2011. There had been readiness to gazette the regulations, but then the goalposts had been moved. Only the executive authority could answer. She could disclose who was responsible for the regulations when the Minister was present. But the person had done the work.

The Chairperson wondered how far consultation had to be taken if the goalposts had been moved. The question was who drew the line. Issues could not be addressed if regulations were not passed.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.

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