Department of Cooperative Governance on 2015/16 3rd & 4th Quarter performance; Budget Vote 3 & Annual Performance Plan: briefing, with Minister present

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

01 March 2016
Chairperson: Mr M Mdakane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Minister and officials from the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) presented the Department’s performance report for the 2014/15 financial year and its annual performance plan for 2016/17.

The Department achieved a considerable percentage of its targets (70%), with a substantial portion still in progress (27%). Some of the targets achieved included implementing the “Back to Basics” programme, setting up a local government information hub, improving human resources capacity in local government and creating work opportunities through the Community Works Programme (CWP). Targets that were not achieved included completing a skills audit, the passing of the Intergovernmental Monitoring Support Intervention Bill into law, and the publication of a code of good practice for local government.

The Department spent 69,9% of its budget for the financial year due to non-disbursement of some Municipal Infrastructure Grants and issues around disaster relief funding. The staff remuneration, disbursements on transfers and subsidies, and procurement of goods and services budgets were underspent during the period under review. There was overspending (125.9%) of the budget on the purchase of capital assets due to the purchase of essential office equipment.

In presenting the Department’s Annual Performance Plan for 2016/17, it was revealed that COGTA’s strategic plan from 2014 to 2019 had been revised during 2015, which was going to have an impact on its budget. The Department’s budget for 2016/17 was planned to decrease, but would increase for 2017/18 and 2017/19.

Only one Member had an opportunity to ask questions, as the meeting was running behind time. He asked about the impact of the Electoral Court’s Tlokwe by-election decision on a number of by-elections that were due to be held soon, and about the non-payment of some headmen by the Department. The Minister responded that he was aware of the importance of the Electoral Court’s decision. The decision stood to disenfranchise a large number of voters who did not fit the requirements for voter registration set out by the Electoral Court. The Department had therefore joined an appeal of the decision that was pending before the Constitutional Court.

Meeting report

Cumulative Performance Report: 1 March to 31 December 2015
Mr Seabelo Molefi, Chief of Strategy, Department of Cooperative Governance, said that the purpose of the meeting was to highlight the Department’s achievements against its targets as set out in its 2015/16 Annual Performance Plan. Overall, the Department had achieved 70% of its planned goals, while 27% were still in progress.

The first programme that the Department had was administration. Under this programme, the implementation of the local government performance management system and creating effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms at the different levels of government were key goals. Significant progress had been made under the “Back to Basics” programme in order to help municipalities to become less dysfunctional. However, the skills audit outcome was yet to be completed, because the proposed organisational structure was yet to be presented to the Minister for approval.

The Department’s second programme was policy research and knowledge management. One of the goals under this programme was to set up a local government information hub, for which a prototype had been created. Another aim was to identify municipalities that were successfully implementing the “Back to Basics” policy. This was likely to be achieved, as a number of success stories had been reported.

The third programme discussed was the governance and inter-governance relations programme. Some of the goals that were on the way to being achieved were initiatives to influence the ability of 15 municipalities to collect outstanding debts, the assessment of municipalities’ compliance with the Municipal Property Rates Act, conducting a nationwide citizen satisfaction survey, monitoring the percentage of municipalities implementing anti-corruption programmes and submitting an annual progress report to the Minister on corruption cases that fell within the Department’s mandate.

The Intergovernmental Monitoring Support Intervention Bill was unlikely to be promulgated, as it had not yet been approved in the requisite structures. Other targets under this programme that were unlikely to be achieved included the rollout of a campaign encouraging an improved culture of paying debts owed to the government and obtaining unqualified audits for some dysfunctional municipalities. The establishment of a local government tribunal had been postponed to 2017/18, and the publication of a code of good practice for local government had not been initiated.

The COGTA’s fourth programme focused on the establishment of a National Disaster Management Centre. A draft bill on fire services had been prepared and the necessary consultations had taken place.  Public awareness campaigns had been successfully undertaken and a number of monitoring and evaluation measures had been taken.

The next programme was provincial and municipal government support. Steps had been taken to improve human resources capacity in municipalities. Preparations for the 2016 local government elections were facilitated as well under this programme. The implementation of the Batho Pele Standards Framework for Local Government had been adopted and was being implemented in some municipalities. A capacity-building strategy for councillors and other local government officials had been developed, but was not being implemented yet.

Infrastructure and economic development was the next programme outlined. Progress had been made in implementing the resolutions of the inter-ministerial committee. Over 10 000 work opportunities had been created and ten municipalities had been added to the Community Works Programme (CWP). A number of municipalities had been monitored to reduce the number of households without access to basic infrastructure. However, this programme had been reconceptualised after being transferred to the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA), and so was unlikely to be achieved.

The Department’s state of expenditure was presented. On average, 69.9% of its budget as a whole had been spent by the end of the period under review. This was because Municipal Infrastructure Grants had been withheld and also because of uncertainty over whether disaster relief funds would be released. The budget on the remuneration of employees had also been underspent because of delays in filling vacancies and staff turnover in the Department. Other items on which there was underspending were procurement of goods and services, and disbursements on transfers and subsidies. There had been overspending (125.9%) of the allocated budget on buying capital assets, which was justified on the basis that it was used to purchase critical office equipment.

Annual Performance Plan for 2016/17
Mr Vusi Madonsela, Director-General, COGTA, outlined the constitutional and legislative context in which the Department operates. The Department’s strategic plan (up to 2019) had been revised to take into account, among others, the realignment of the budget programme structure from April 2016 and the institutionalisation of the “Back to Basics” programme. The ten aspects of the “Back to Basics” programme were discussed, including the support of revenue enhancing programmes for municipalities, improving the quality of service and maintenance of infrastructure and strengthening the capacity of the Department’s provincial offices. A number of strategic objectives and their indicators were discussed. The Department had also made efforts to incorporate the recommendations made by the Portfolio Committee in the Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report for the 2013/14 and the 2014/15 financial years

Ms Dorothee Snyman, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), COGTA, explained the financial aspects of the 2016/17 Annual Performance Plan. A number of budgetary and programme changes were being planned by the Department. Some programmes and sub-programmes were being consolidated or restructured and therefore it was necessary to reallocate funding as necessary.  There would be a net decrease in the Department’s budget vote for 2016, which would however increase in 2017/18 and then in 2018/19.

Discussion
The Chairperson suggested that Committee Members pose questions at a future time to be agreed, because there was a sitting of the National Assembly at 2 pm. It was agreed that Members would send their questions to the Department during the course of the day and that the Committee would sit again on Wednesday, 2 March at 1 pm in order for the Department to provide answers.

Mr M Hlengwa (IFP) asked the Minister about the postponement of certain by-elections that had occurred in response to a ruling by the Electoral Court on the disputed Tlokwe by-election. He also asked about the issue of the non-payment of headmen and threats made by them to disrupt the voter registration weekend.

Minister David van Rooyen asked for clarity from the Chairperson, since the questions fell outside the purview of what had been presented in the meeting.

The Chairperson responded that Members could ask about any matter in the meeting.

The Minister agreed that the Electoral Court decision on the Tlokwe by-election was of national importance because it would have far reaching implications for the conduct of elections in South Africa. Over seven million people who were currently on the voters roll had no formal residential addresses and so were effectively disenfranchised by the Electoral Court’s decision. The Electoral Court ruling meant that the entire voters’ roll had to be overhauled, and there were no budgetary resources for implementing such an overhaul before the pending local government elections. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) had approached the Minister (it was not specified which Minister) for additional funding to implement this ruling. The IEC was therefore forced to postpone the 12 by-elections that were pending because they were liable to be challenged in terms of the Electoral Court precedent on the Tlokwe by-election. The Department had joined an appeal of the Electoral Court ruling to the Constitutional Court in order to get clarity on how to proceed with further elections. All these developments notwithstanding, the IEC was still preparing for local government elections by, for example, engaging in a voter registration drive beginning this weekend.

On the issue of the non-payment of the headmen, provincial governments had been using their discretion to pay headmen and there had been some problems with this in Kwazulu Natal. The Minister said that he did not have more details on this matter.

The meeting was adjourned.

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