Governance in Municipalities; Intergovernmental Relations, Legislative Process & Role in Provinces: briefing by SALGA

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Meeting report

LOCAL GOVERNMENT SELECT COMMITTEE

LOCAL GOVERNMENT SELECT COMMITTEE
26 February 2003
GOVERNANCE IN MUNICIPALITIES; INTERGOVERNMENTAL RELATIONS,
LEGISLATIVE PROCESS AND ITS ROLE IN PROVINCES: BRIEFING BY SALGA

Chairperson:
Mr B Mkhaliphi (ANC)[Mpumalanga]

Documents handed out:
Briefing by SALGA

SUMMARY
The presentation by SALGA focused on governance in the municipalities, the relationship between government structures and the role played by SALGA on municipal level. The Committee heard that SALGA is experiencing problems in managing the B and C categories of municipal councils as well as securing a broader community involvement in the decision-making processes of the municipal councils. The majority of the municipal councils have already started initiatives for the delivery of free basic services. They also noted that, although the municipalities want to deliver to their communities, they are still owed millions of rands by the same communities. Debt collection measures have been dubbed as inhumane. SALGA noted that they were to meet with Treasury very soon to discuss the types of physical discipline that should be imposed on the municipal councils in their administration of finances.

MINUTES
SALGA was represented by Mr T Mokoena (SALGA: CEO) Mr J Ramosai (Chair of IGR), Councillor S McKlein, and Mr M Soni (Director: IGR). They noted that the presentation was the result of the resolutions taken by the National General Council of SALGA in September 2002. He said that municipal councils are divided into three different categories and SALGA is experiencing problems in managing the B and C categories. He also noted the other challenges facing SALGA such as having a broader community involvement in the decision-making processes of the municipal councils.
The White Paper on Local Government articulates three inter-related approaches to assist municipalities to become more developmental:
-Integrated development planning and budgeting
-Performance management
-Working with local citizens and partners.
The Constitution further instructs municipalities to structure and manage their administrative budgeting and planning processes to prioritise the basic needs of the community.

After the enactment of the Municipal Finance Management Bill by Parliament the municipalities would be able to manage their own finances. However, SALGA has consulted with SCOPA, asking for the establishment of a committee which would be responsible for supervising the use of the resources by the municipal councils.

Part of the SALGA business plan is the development of an intergovernmental relations strategy that will, among others, focus on the management of the relations between all the role players in this area. (please see briefing document attached)

Discussion
Kgoshi L Mokoena (ANC) [Limpopo] queried the absence of the national leadership of SALGA, which had also been invited to attend the briefing.

Mr Mokoena responded that the national Chairperson of SALGA had wanted to come to the briefing but he was delayed and the Deputy Chair was attending certain parliamentary processes.

Kgoshi Mokoena expressed his dissatisfaction, noting that the conduct of the SALGA National Executive Committee is unacceptable since it undermines one of the NCOP committees and should therefore be taken as contempt of Parliament.

The Chair also noted that the Committee was not trying to be difficult, but wants to ensure that proper procedures are being followed. If it had requested the presence of the national elected leadership it expected them to be personally present and not their delegates.

Councillor McKlein apologised on behalf of the national leadership of SALGA and promised to communicate the Committee's disapproval to the national leadership. He appealed to the Committee that this should not be interpreted as being disrespectful towards the Committee.

Mr G Lever (DP) [North West] also concurred with the views held by his colleagues and further noted that only the national leadership would be able to respond to some of the contentious issues raised in the document as they affect the credibility of SALGA. He sought clarity on the meaning of a paragraph in the briefing document 'Within the NCOP, SALGA has a role to play in the deliberations of key Select Committees where matters affecting local government are debated. Attendance of the ANC study groups of these committees is also of critical importance'. He pointed out that there are twelve political parties represented in Parliament.

Councillor McKlein responded that the national leadership would have to respond to this. However, assured the Committee that they had no intention of discrediting any of the political parties represented in Parliament. This might have been an error on the part of the drafters since there are many documents that they have to produce.

Mr N Maloyi (ANC) [North West] asked about the possibility of SALGA drawing up its budget on a local level and what effect that would have on the Integrated Rural Development Programme (IDRP).

Mr Mokoena responded that this process is in its final stages of preparations and its implementation would be linked to the IDRP. They expect it to have been finalised when the 2003/4 budget is tabled.

Ms N Dlulane (ANC)[Eastern Cape] asked who is responsible to fund nodes and where the IDRP enters the process.

Mr Mokoena said that the office of the President is responsible for identifying the nodes and then provides for their funding. The nodes are also linked to the IDRP and as the result of that the IDRP also gives substantial financial assistance.

Ms N Ntwanambi (ANC) [Western Cape] asked whether the municipal councils' meetings are open to the general public.

Councillor McKlein responded that all council meetings are open to the general public, but people are only inclined to come when there are public days and on other days the gallery would be empty.

Mr Maloyi asked whether councillors hold regular meetings with their communities and if not, what is the problem?

Councillor McKlein responded that all councillors hold community meetings; there were only three who were unable to do so. However, SALGA has already solved that problem and now even those councillors are holding their community meetings with their wards.

Ms Ntwanambi asked what SALGA has done to capacitate the councils so that their community meetings could be broader in representation.

Councillor McKlein responded that SALGA has established wards committees, which are chaired by councillors, as they are the heads of the wards. These committees would work as extension to the councils and would be the ones responsible for the calling of wards meetings. If the councillors refused to call those wards meetings then they could be reported to their mayors who should act accordingly.

Kgoshi Mokoena asked how effective the councillors of those previously white communities are and whether they also convene their ward meetings since it is the right of those communities to have their problems attended to.

Councillor McKlein responded that these councillors are also very effective in their communities. But since these ward committees are still new they are not yet effective in all the municipal councils.

Ms Ntwanambi asked what SALGA is doing with those councils who are corrupt within the municipal council.

Mr Mokoena responded that SALGA had met with the Department of Public Services to discuss this matter, but at the moment nothing concrete has been decided. They are also planning to meet with the municipalities so that a stand could be taken against corrupt councillors within the municipalities.

The Chair asked what kind of physical discipline can be imposed on the municipalities to ensure that they all account for every amount given to them and are also given the amount suitable to their functions.

Mr Mokoena responded that SALGA would be meeting with Treasury to discuss, among things, the types of physical discipline that should be imposed on the municipal councils in their administration of their finances.

Prince B Zulu (ANC)[KwaZulu-Natal] noted that there has been a report of corruption involving KwaNologu. He asked what kind of relations SALGA and KwaNologu have.

Councillor McKlein responded that they have a working relationship with KwaNologu and they would investigate the matter since any local structure should be accountable. However, KwaNologu is a small structure, which is not allowed to possess the amount claimed to have been embezzled by its officers.

Mr Maloyi asked whether councillors are able to perform their executive functions and if not what has been done to ensure that all functionaries are able to perform their functions as required.

Councillor McKlein acknowledged that there has been a problem in the municipalities concerning the functions and powers of some members. As a result SALGA has been conducting workshops to explain the difference, among other things, between the executive mayor and the mayor and what is expected from each of them.

Kgoshi Mokoena asked how SALGA would deal with some councillors who sit in on meetings as councillors and in another as members of tender boards.

Councillor McKlein noted that the national office would have to respond to this matter. However, from his own understanding, there is a tender committee, consisting of some councillors and officials, which is responsible for handling all tenders. But if the claim made by the Member is correct then an investigation has to be conducted.

Mr Maloyi asked what role SALGA plays regarding the South African Constitution Third Amendment Bill as the Bill seriously affects the municipal councils.

Mr Mokoena responded that SALGA has been actively involved throughout the process and participated in all the discussion leading to the Bill.

Ms Ntwanambi asked what SALGA does to communicate Section 76 legislation to the local structures of the municipal council.

Ms Dlulane also noted that there appeared to be no consultation between SALGA and the councillors since most of the councillors are not aware of the legislation in which SALGA took part in deliberations.

Mr Mokoena responded that SALGA always communicate its participation in any parliamentary processes to the municipal councils and above all it has also encouraged its provincial structures to participate in their provincial legislatures. The problem might be with the councillors, perhaps because of the hectic work they are involved with.

Mr Maloyi noted that the Government has promised people free basic services. How far has SALGA taken the matter in ensuring that there is delivery of the promised services and what are the problems they have encountered in the implementation of this process.

Mr Soni responded that the majority of the municipal councils have already started initiatives regarding the delivery of free basic services. The first leg of the process was the delivery of free basic water and therefore SALGA, together with the Department of Water Affairs, began a water transfer scheme. As the result of that scheme about 76% of the municipalities are now receiving free basic water. The initiatives to delivery free basic electricity have also begun in other communities as a pilot project. A full implementation of this project would take place on 1 July 2003 and it would be extended to those who are currently receiving Eskom electricity.

Mr Maloyi asked whether there is a framework in place regarding the downgrading and upgrading of the process, which would eventually result in the quick implementation of these free basic services to all municipalities.

Mr Mokoena responded that since they consider this to be a delicate matter, they have arranged a meeting with all the municipal councils. In that meeting, which would take place sometime next week, SALGA would urge all the municipalities, especially those who have not yet implemented the free basic services, to undertake initiatives which would see the implementation of this process. It should be borne in mind that although the municipalities want to deliver to their communities, they are still owed millions of rands by the same communities. Debt collection measures have been dubbed by the communities as inhumane. Government wants the collectors to do their job, blaming them for being weak.

The Chair acknowledged the mammoth task facing SALGA and was pleased with the direction that has been taken so far. If SALGA did not bring these issues to the fore then no one would know the problems faced by the municipalities. SALGA should develop a culture of including its achievements and shortcomings in its newspaper so that the public is aware of problems facing their municipal councils. He noted that there is an agreement between SALGA and the Committee to meet quarterly to share experiences.

The meeting was adjourned.

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