South Africa Local Government Association on its 2014 Strategic Plan

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

29 July 2014
Chairperson: Mr M Mdakane (ANC
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Meeting Summary

SALGA presented its 2014/25 Annual Performance Plan, and listed its seven strategic priorities as accessible and equitable sustainable services; safe and healthy environment and communities; coherent local planning and economic development; effective, responsive and accountable local government; human capital development in local government; financially and organisationally capacitated municipalities; and effective and efficient SALGA administration. 
The main challenges that local government faced were due to unfunded mandates, as only 9% of fiscal transfers accrued to local government, which was incongruent with the expectations of people in local government. The unfunded and under-funded mandates were housing, healthcare services, museums, libraries, ambulance services and road infrastructure. Some of the reforms directed at local government had increased the challenges they faced, instead of helping them. SALGA had started a municipal water barometer to benchmark the effectiveness of municipalities in delivering water services.  SALGA planned to establish a Centre for Leadership and Governance

Members were concerned that some municipalities were still facing challenges in delivering services, and achieving unqualified audits. SALGA was urged to consider partnering with institutions of higher learning, rather than having to establish its own school for local government.  A Member suggested that SALGA should consider a differentiated approach in salary negotiations, as some of the salary agreements that SALGA reached with municipalities were affordable to some, but unaffordable to others.   Members condemned service delivery protests that involved the burning of public infrastructure.
SALGA admitted that previous interventions in municipalities had been problematic in that sometimes SALGA had come up with the wrong diagnosis and prescribed an intervention that did not result in an improvement to the problems it was designed to alleviate, but it was a learning curve.

The government had been investing a lot of money in the training of councillors, but the main question was whether government was getting value for money.  The approach in this country -- especially the one-size-fits-all approach to training people through a capacity building programme -- led to the assumption that everything would work well.   Experiences from other countries, notably Germany, had made SALGA think about what kind of training was essential for the smooth functioning of municipalities. The question of whether training was offered by SALGA or by an external institution should ensure that SALGA took centre stage in ensuring that local government practitioners received the best training to take local government forward.
 

Meeting report

Briefing by SALGA on its Annual Performance Plan (2014/15)
Mr Thabo Manyoni, Chairperson: South African Local Government Association (SALGA), said the Association was an organised formation of local government which dealt with matters pertaining to local governance in general. It lobbies and represents local government at the provincial and national level, as well as at international fora. The major challenge facing local government was bringing stability to the labour force.  Another challenge was to capacitate the less fortunate municipalities to be able to provide basic requirements.  There was need to review legislation that governs local government.  SALGA achieved a clean audit for the second consecutive year, and needed municipalities to achieve clean audits too.

Mr George Xolile, Chief Executive Officer of SALGA, said the seven strategic goals of SALGA were

-  Accessible and equitable sustainable services;

-  Safe and healthy environment and communities;

-  Coherent local planning and economic development;

-  Effective, responsive and accountable local government for communities;

-  Human capital development in local government;

-  Financially and organisationally capacitated municipalities; and

-  Effective and efficient SALGA administration

Its three apex priorities were to review the legislative and policy framework that impacted local government negatively, review the local government fiscal and financial management framework, and improve local government capacity.

Flagship projects in 2014/15 were the phased implementation of the SALGA Centre for Leadership and Governance, initiation of an executive coaching programme for municipal leaders, initiation of multi-disciplinary advisory, hands-on support for improved local government, leading the review of legislation that impedes local government -- especially the Municipal Structures Act and Municipal Systems Act, and implementation of anti-corruption programmes based on resolutions of the SALGA anti-Corruption Summit.  SALGA would also initiate a small town regeneration programme to unlock rural economies and manage the rural-urban interface, lead knowledge management in local government, profile local government service delivery successes and the rebranding of SALGA, and initiate a quality management programme for local government and SALGA.

Mr Xolile said SALGA was pushing for the review of legislation that was “blanketed” on local government, regardless of the strength of municipalities.  SALGA had written to the President, asking him not to sign the Municipal Rates Amendment Act and the Public Administration Management Act so that further consultations may take place.  SALGA had advocated the establishment of municipal public accounts and audit committees, which had been established. It was also leading the fight against corruption, to ensure that all manifestations of corruption were attended to.
The main challenges that local government faced were due to unfunded mandates, as only 9% of fiscal transfers had been accrued to local government, which was incongruent with the expectations of people from local government. The unfunded and under-funded mandates were housing, health care services, museums, libraries, ambulance services and road infrastructure.  Some of the reforms directed at local government had increased their challenges, instead of helping them. SALGA had started a municipal water barometer to measure the effectiveness of municipalities in delivering water services.

Discussion
Mr K Mileham (DA) was concerned about the politicisation of SALGA, where party politics was reflected in the way SALGA operated.  SALGA’s funding model had 6% derived from the national fiscus, 92% from municipal levies and membership, while the remaining 2% came from sponsorships. SALGA had complained that this placed a huge burden on municipalities, but SALGA was a representative body of municipalities, and should not be subservient to the national fiscus. As a result, the bulk of its funding had to come from municipalities.

Mr Mileham said that when he served at municipal level in small rural municipalities and metropolitan municipalities, he had observed that there were certain challenges that had resulted from SALGA agreeing to a salary increase with trade unions which was affordable to some municipalities, but absolutely unaffordable to others.  He recommended collective bargaining, with a differentiated approach to salary structures, taking into consideration the strength of a municipality.

He said had not heard about district municipalities in the presentation.  When the annual report comes out in September, it must have measurable targets and goals.  He asked SALGA to unpack the assistance being offered to municipal public accounts committees, as it was an excellent initiative.  He was pleased to hear that there was a strengthening of community public participation, especially on participatory budgeting.  He was interested to hear more about the municipal water barometer and how it measured the effectiveness of water service delivery.

Mr N Masondo (ANC) said the presentation showed some indication of improvement.  However, the document used a lot of acronyms that needed to be explained such as MID, GIGR, CSR and ES.

He said the programmes that SALGA aimed to achieve, such as representation in the Justice and Crime Prevention Cluster and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), must have timelines so that issues of electricity cable theft that were worrying, could be addressed.

He asked SALGA to turn to civil society in order to embrace the technique of professional lobbying so that it could engage government in an ongoing, structured way.

He wanted to know more about the content of the intended establishment of the Centre for Leadership and Governance for the training of senior managers. This idea was long overdue, as there was a need to train people in leadership on an ongoing basis, thereby building capacity in municipalities. However, this programme must not be limited to senior executive management, but should include administrative and political training of councillors, as the more people that were empowered, the better. 

The question of an independent SALGA should take into consideration that the Constitution states that the spheres of government should be distinct, interrelated and interdependent, as this was misunderstood. 

Ms N Mthembu (ANC) expressed appreciation for the presentation, even though district municipalities and the retention of skills had not been mentioned.  She asked for solutions to be put forward to assist municipalities facing challenges, to ensure that South Africa grows.

She was concerned with service delivery protests that involve the burning of libraries and schools, as these were reverses against the 2030 vision. She called for the implementation of strict sentences for service delivery protestors that vandalise public infrastructure.

Mr M Mapulane (ANC) said the presentation was good, indicating that the association was maturing with time. He said with 20 years since the establishment of SALGA looming in 2016, it must have become a repository for all information related to local government.

Ahead of the 2016 local government elections, SALGA -- as an employer body -- must ensure that wage agreements with trade unions do not lapse towards the election time, to avoid disruptions in local government.

He asked what SALGA was going to do to ensure the sustainability and viability of certain municipalities that faced financial challenges.  Since SALGA’s responsibility was to assist municipalities with audit outcomes, he wanted to know the support given to municipalities struggling to get clean audits. SALGA had received two clean audits, yet municipalities were struggling to get unqualified audits.

He said that people in South Africa must not feel the fruits of democracy and liberation differently, especially those who live in rural areas, as the municipalities they were living under were handicapped to supply the full basket of services and infrastructure in comparison with metropolitan municipalities. The fact that rural municipalities were not able to generate sufficient revenue had a direct impact on people. Those in rural areas must receive services comparable to urban areas.  
SALGA must start preparations for post-2016 elections support for councillors with capacity building, despite a high turnover trend of councillors after elections.

A study conducted by the South African Institute of Race Relations (2011) showed that 62% of the population was now living in urban areas.  This had a corresponding effect on the population in rural areas. It increased the challenges and burdens on service delivery in urban areas. This trend would continue to be a challenge for organised local government. .

Finally, he wanted to know the difference between the Leadership Centre versus the School of Government. He suggested that SALGA consider having a faculty/school of local government leadership at the School of Government, instead of establishing its own centre, as the process of establishing it could be quite demanding and expensive

Mr E Mthethwa (ANC) said SALGA data about all local governments was important, and it was imperative to ensure that data was used meaningfully and kept safe.

In some municipalities, service delivery had been high on the agenda -- for example, eradication of the bucket system. He asked how SALGA ensured that issues like eradication of the bucket system were implemented without fail. He asked for programmes that SALGA had for municipalities with infrastructure that was in a terrible state.   Did SALGA have a programme for assisting municipalities facing revenue collection challenges?

He said there were some municipalities where corruption investigations had implicated municipal management. He asked if SALGA has a programme to assist municipalities with leadership, or whether it left them to find their way alone.

On collective bargaining, he asked how SALGA ensured that agreements reached were adopted by municipalities without fail, as some municipalities had been taken to court for failing to implement such agreements.

Mr B Bhanga (DA) said the leadership academy SALGA was proposing could be done in collaboration with institutions of higher learning, to achieve value for money. It was wasteful expenditure to train a councillor who left office in the subsequent term.

He said the SALGA multi-disciplinary advisory committee to assist municipalities with improving audit outcomes created the impression that audit outcomes challenges were a new phenomenon. He asked whether any interventions had been made previously to assist municipalities to improve audit outcomes.

Corruption at local government level was so extreme that it could collapse the foundations of democracy. Did SALGA have any interventions to help municipalities to arrest the demon of corruption.

He asked what SALGA was doing with people not suitable for occupying certain positions in municipalities -- for example, a person trained in biblical studies being appointed the Chief Financial Officer. This trend had been continuing for many years, especially in collapsing municipalities.

He was worried that towns were becoming “ghost cities,” especially when zoning requirements were not adhered to.  He said this was typified in Nelson Mandela Municipality, where R20 million was invested for a restaurant hub, which became a hair salon, then a tavern, a car wash and then a braai area. He urged SALGA to improve the capacity of inspectors.

Mr C Matsepe (DA) said there were townships that had been created by the apartheid regime in the outer cities. These townships had grown in size, but municipalities were not moving in to collect revenue. He asked what SALGA was doing to urge municipalities to collect revenue in those townships, to improve their financial viability.

The Chairperson reminded the Committee that the SALGA leadership was to have a very critical meeting at 12 noon in the legislature.  SALGA would have to answer some questions in writing and after the recess, the Committee would need a full day with SALGA to discuss local government issues in South Africa. It was important for SALGA to discuss the challenges they faced to avoid disappointments, such as when they had written to the President to avoid accepting a bill which parliamentarians had applauded when it was passed.  The Committee had five to seven members who once served in local government, and could assist in giving solutions to challenges at the local level.

Mr Manyoni replied that he appreciated the proposal to have a session to discuss issues that were raised in questions and suggestions they needed to look into. Previous interventions in municipalities had been problematic in that sometimes SALGA came up with the wrong diagnosis and prescribed an intervention that did not result in an improvement to the problems it was designed to alleviate, but it was a learning curve.

The government had been investing a lot of money in the training of councillors, but the main question was whether government was getting value for money.  The approach in this country -- especially the one-size-fits-all approach in training people through a capacity building programme -- led to the assumption that everything would work well.   Experiences from other countries, notably Germany, had made SALGA think about what kind of training was essential for the smooth functioning of municipalities. The question of whether training was offered by SALGA or by an external institution should ensure that SALGA took centre stage in ensuring that local government practitioners received the best training to take local government forward.

SALGA was playing a central role in Africa and the world, as the president of SALGA was the president of local government in the Southern African Development Community, thereby taking the African Agenda forward.

He said the movement of people because of war and poverty was resulting in rapid urbanisation and putting pressure on infrastructure and health services.  Some of the problems faced by municipalities were not necessarily structural, but political.

On the politicisation of SALGA, he said all municipalities in South Africa had people as inhabitants who expected services, regardless of gender, sex and political party. SALGA, as the custodian of municipalities, performed its duties in a manner in which all South Africans should be proud.

SALGA had already started engaging its officials on elections, to ensure that there was stability moving forward.

He said some of the service delivery protests were politically based, rather than issue based.  The burning of libraries in service delivery protests was tantamount to treason, as it would affect future generations. He urged all South Africans to consider which future cities they aspired to, that would enable future generations to be proud of their forebears.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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