The meeting involved three Section 47 performance report presentations by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) delegates from the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga provinces. Delegates from Kwazulu Natal were also present to answer specific Committee questions.
The first presentation was delivered by the Mpumalanga province COGTA department, covering the 2013/2014 financial year. Overall the situation in Mpumalanga had been complex in terms of the performance of the department, with certain performance indicators improving and others worsening. Vacant positions in public office were a significant challenge to the department. Committee members raised concerns about a lack of meaningful response by the department to issues it had raised in the presentation.
The second presentation was also from the Mpumalanga department, but covered the 2014/2015 financial year. However, a Committee member observed that certain elements of the presentation had been copied directly from the 2013/2014 presentation, and as such could not represent the real situation. This upset the Committee, and ultimately it was decided that both reports were invalid and that the department should return for another meeting when it had prepared proper documents.
The middle portion of the meeting dealt with accusations regarding the organisation and cancellation of stakeholder/council meetings in Kwazulu-Natal (KZN) province. The Chief Director for Municipal Governance and Administration, KZN Province, responded to the accusations and gave his account of events. Ultimately, the Chairperson was satisfied by his response and felt that the legal invalidation of the meeting that had been cancelled and the Chief Director’s actions were justifiable.
The third presentation was a performance report for 2013/2014 delivered by the Northern Cape COGTA department. The presentation highlighted progress in terms of key performance areas and the relevant challenges. The report also noted vacancies as a challenging area. Overall, the Committee was more satisfied with this report, but again voiced concern about the lack of meaningful responses to the challenges raised in the report, many of which they regarded as serious issues.
Mpumalanga: Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs
Mr Sam Ngubane, Chief Director: Development and Planning, Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), Mpumalanga Province, described the development of good governance in the each of the three districts of Mpumalanga.
In the Ehlanzeni district, the troika and councils were functional and holding meetings as scheduled in all municipalities, except for the Thaba Chweu and Umjindi local municipalities. All council oversight structures were established, and all oversight structures were functional and holding meetings. This included section 79 and 80 portfolio committees. All municipalities had established functional municipal public accounts committees (MPACs), except Thaba Chweu local municipality (LM), where the MPAC did not convene. There were 31 recorded incidents of protest in the district: 13 in Bushbuckridge, nine in Mbombela, eight in Nkomazi and one in Umjindi, with the remaining not properly documented.
In the Gert Sibande district, the troika and councils were functional and holding meetings as scheduled in all municipalities. All council oversight structures were functional and holding meetings as required, but the audit committee for Msukaligwa local municipality was not functional. All municipalities had convened portfolio meetings as planned and all municipalities except Mkhondo LM had defined the roles of committees and political office bearers. All municipal councils except Mkhondo LM had adopted a code of conduct for both councillors and staff. There were 22 incidents of community protests recoded: five in Chief Albert Luthuli, one in Dipaleseng, one in Lekwa, four in Govan Mbeki and 11 in Gert Sibande district municipality.
In the Nkangala district, the troika and councils were functional and holding meetings as scheduled in all municipalities except Emalahleni, in which no formal troika meeting was held. All council oversight structures were functional and holding meetings as required. The Nkangala district municipality was sharing its audit committee with its constituent local municipalities, excluding Emalahleni LM. All municipalities had held portfolio meetings as planned, had defined the roles of committees and political office bearers and, except for Thembisile Hani LM, had adopted a code of conduct for both councillors and staff. There were 12 incidents of community protests recorded: eight in Emalahleni, two in Victor Khanye and two in Dr JS Moroka.
Mr Ngubane moved on to discuss performance in terms of the delivery of basic services to the districts, and began with the provision of potable water to Ehlanzeni. In the 2013/14 financial year, there were 464 624 households in the district, of which 368 638 (82.8%) had access to potable water. This represented a slight increase of 1.9 % compared to the 2012/13 year, where 80.9% of households had access. The provision of free basic water was measured according to provision to indigents. In 2013/14 Ehlanzeni had 34 936 indigents, of which (62.2%) had access to free basic water. In terms of sanitation, 390 657 households (84%) had access to sanitation, while 13 020 indigents had access to free basic sanitation. 420 354 households (94.44%) had access to electricity, with 34 860 indigents out of 37 675 (96%) having access to free basic electricity.
In the Gert Sibande district, 266 057 (97.3%) out of 277 807 households had access to potable water, representing an increase of 2.8%. In terms of free basic water, 46 006 (91%) had access to free basic water, a 6% increase over the previous year. In terms of sanitation, 234 128 households out of 273 490 (85.6%) had access, representing a decrease of 9.4% from the previous year. 41 182 indigents out of 50 998 (83%) had access to free basic sanitation, representing an increase of 1.8%. Out of 273 490 households in the district, 233 821(85.5%) had access to electricity, marking a 0.9% increase. 44 278 indigents out of 50 998 (89.3%) had access to free basic electricity, marking a decrease of 6.4%.
In the Nkangala district in the 2013/14 financial year, out of 389 224 households, 371 807 (95.9%) had access to potable water, which represented a 2.8% increase on the previous year. Of 38 766 indigents, 31 583 (68%) had access to free basic water. 272 153 of households (76.3%) had access to sanitation, and 31 255 indigents out of 37 571 had access to free basic sanitation. 311 424 households (87.26%) had access to electricity, marking an increase of 0.86%, with 35 741 indigents (83%) having access to free basic electricity.
Mr Ngubane said all municipalities in the province had an approved spatial development framework (SDF), but in most municipalities the SDF was not aligned to projects implemented in terms of the Integrated Development Plan (IDP). All municipalities had reviewed their IDPs. Municipalities had improved in the achievement of their developmental objectives. Most municipalities faced the challenge of non-alignment between their IDP, their budgets and the SDF.
As of 2013/14, 15 out of 21 municipalities had disaster management centres, and all 21 had finalised their disaster management plans. The disaster management framework existed only at the district level and there was currently one for each of the three districts.
18 out of 21 municipalities in the province had Local Economic Development (LED) strategies. The three which had no LED strategy in place were Mkhondo, Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme and Thembisile Hani. As of 2013, Umjindi and Dipaleseng had not implemented their LED strategies. All municipalities had institutionalised the implementation of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP). There was a challenge for some municipalities in respect of reporting on job creation through the EPWP. There were also issues of inadequate municipal budget to support the objectives of the programme.
Mr Ngubane said most municipalities were unchanged in their audit outcomes, although four had improved and two had regressed. Those that had regressed were Gert Sibande and Emakhazeni. All municipalities, except Msukaligwa, had submitted their unaudited 2013/14 annual reports and annual financial statements to the Auditor General (AG) by the statutory deadline of 31 August 2015. Ten out of 21 municipalities had used consultants in the preparation of their annual financial statements.
The overall cumulative revenue generated by municipalities within the province as at June 2013 amounted to R10.762 billion, which fell 4% short of the budget of R11.161 billion. There had been poor spending of municipal capital budgets. There was an underutilization of grant funding for operational expenditure due to cash flow challenges. In terms of public participation, over the financial year only 289 (72%) of the ward committees were functional.
Mr Ngubane explained that a key problem for the province was the high vacancy rate. The vacancy rate for senior management posts in municipalities was 20% in 2013/14. There were vacant Municipal Manager (MM) posts in Mbombela and Thaba Chweu municipalities. Two chief financial officer posts were vacant in Mbombela and Thaba Chweu municipalities. Three technical service posts were vacant in Umjindi, Ehlanzeni and Thaba Chweu municipalities. There was a vacant corporate services post in Bushbuckridge LM. Finally, there were two community services posts vacant in Bushbuckridge and Thaba Chweu municipalities.
14 municipalities in the province had performance management system (PMS) frameworks. Those that did not were Thaba Chweu, Dipaleseng, Emalahleni, Mkhondo, Umjindi, Govan Mbeki and Msukaligwa. All Section 57 managers had signed performance contracts. At municipalities that were under administration, the administrators had been assessed by the COGTA Member of the Executive Council (MEC) and the Executive Council. Only Bushbuckridge had cascaded the PMS to officials below S56/57 managers.
Mr Ngubane provided recommendations for key performance areas (KPAs) based on the 2013/2014 report. In terms of institutional development and transformation (KPA 1), municipalities needed to advertise vacant posts immediately. Municipalities should review their recruitment and retention strategies. The department should support and monitor municipalities to review their PMS frameworks. Regarding service delivery and infrastructure development (KPA 2) , he said that the provincial department should continue to support municipalities to reduce backlogs in the delivery of basic services. In terms of local economic development (KPA 3), the department should support municipalities in the establishment of LED forums. The department should encourage municipalities to review their LED strategies.
Further recommendations were that in terms of municipal financial viability and management (KPA 4), the department and provincial treasury should continue to support municipalities in financial planning and project management. The department must assist and support municipalities in implementing their revenue enhancement strategies and audit plans. Finally, in terms of good governance and public participation (KPA 5), the department should provide support in the resuscitation of dysfunctional audit committees. In addition, the department should support municipalities without functional ward committees.
A Member asked why the Mkhondo municipality had failed to comply with the requirement to hold meetings, define roles and adopt a code of conduct for both councillors and staff. He asked the same of the Thembisile Hani LM district and wanted to know what measures had been taken to address these cases. He questioned what actions had been taken in response to the incidents of political protests and the strained relations among members of the troika. It was mentioned that the Nkanagala district was sharing its audit committee. How long had this been taking place and why?
Mr Dubeni questioned why departments were using consultants. He commented that consultants were expensive, and wanted this expense to be justified. Given the high vacancy rates in 2013/14, he wanted to know what the rates were like today (2016). What interventions were being done to ensure these posts were filled? He noted the decline in the appointment of female section 56/57 managers, and wanted to know the cause of this decline.
Ms G Manopole (ANC, Northern Cape) observed that in the 2014/15 presentation, which had not been presented yet but had been distributed, it appeared that there were instances of ‘copy-and-paste,’ with certain slides exactly matching the 2013/14 presentation. She gave several examples which were examined by the Committee. The consensus was that there were indeed instances in which the slides were identical in the two presentations, indicating that the context had simply been copied from one year to the next.
Ms Manopole noted this problem, and continued with questions. Regarding political instability, she commented that incidents seemed to have increased year on year. However, the presentation had not mentioned any activity by the department to resolve these issues. Why were there no interventions, or if they did exist, what were they? Similarly, in the case where municipalities had not aligned SDFs with the IDP, what interventions had been taken to resolve this? Likewise, in the case of vacancies, what capacity building programmes had been implemented? She commended the 40% increase in respect of access to free basic sanitation.
Mr M Mhlanga (ANC, Mpumalanga) was displeased by the lack of public meetings, which he noted was unconstitutional. Similarly, according to section 135 of the constitution, there could not be a municipality functioning without a local economic development strategy. He commented that the presentation had not spoken about labour issues. A municipality could not function if labour issues were not addressed. He added that if there were more public meetings, there would be less protesting.
The Chairperson referred to the cut-and-paste issue that Members had raised, and suggested that the department take a five-minute caucus to discuss its response to the Committee. The department took this opportunity, and the meeting reconvened shortly thereafter.
Mr Cain Chunda, Head of Department, Mpumalanga COGTA, conceded that cut-and-paste had occurred. He defended this practice to a slight extent, by pointing out that in some instances where the event in question was minor and it was more or less repeated in the second year, then a copy of the information made a reasonable approximation of reality. Overall, he conceded however that a direct copy-paste was a misrepresentation of reality.
The Chairperson proposed that the Committee reject the 2014/2015 report and ‘send the delegates back’ (to their offices in Mpumalanga) to prepare a correct report. He said that this decision would be reflective of the Committee’s constitutional responsibility as an overseeing body. The province must compile a proper report. He added that the MEC, Ms Refilwe Mtsweni, should be present at these meetings.
A Member seconded the proposal. He warned the delegation that they should not take the responsibility of reporting to the Committee lightly. Coming to Parliament from the province without checking the document was not acceptable. He added that the MEC should not be “running away” from meeting the Committee. He felt that the delegates could not be taking the job or the Committee seriously if they were not familiar enough with the document and its contents to notice such an obvious error. He felt it was a grossly irresponsible handling of their power. Like other Members, he was concerned that there seemed to be a complete lack of response to any of the issues highlighted in the document. However, he felt that the authenticity of the document was the main concern.
Mr Ngubane asked which of the two presentations was being rejected and which needed to be fixed.
The Chairperson responded that both were illegitimate and as such, both needed to be fixed. They should represent reality and have the actual facts. The Committee would deliberate only on legitimate documents, and this should be in the presence of the MEC.
Mr Chunda promised to come back to the Committee with credible documents. He commented that he was new to the department, having been there for only three months, but that he was learning fast and would rise to the challenge.
The Chairperson also recommended that the department use a spread-sheet to allow a much simpler and quicker comparison of the various figures reported over time.
KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) meeting issue
The Chairperson told the KZN delegates that the Committee had recently visited the Nquthu local municipality and the uMzinyathi district municipality. This visit was on the basis of Section 139, sub-section 1B, of the constitution regarding the constitution of these bodies, as per section 29 of the Municipal Structures Act. During the visit, the Committee had solicited the views of internal and external stakeholders. During consultations, there were allegations that information regarding the stakeholder meetings of the provincial department had not been handled properly by the MEC. The allegation was that the MEC had been in contact with the municipal manager and that an instruction had been passed to not to hold stakeholder consultations via SMS. Did the representatives of KZN province have any knowledge of situations where they had communicated with the municipal manager directly?
Mr Lionel Pienaar, Chief Director: Municipal Governance and Administration, KZN, said that the province was very proactive when preparing for elections. There were various structures and support mechanisms in place to ensure a smooth transition pre-, during and post-election. The instance in question was at a Nquthu municipal council meeting in August that had commenced two hours late. Mr Pienaar himself was at a separate meeting on that day, but the information he had for the Committee was provided by his team. He had not attended any of the meetings in the Nquthu municipality himself. Issues had been raised around the political attendance of NFP and EFF party members and the replacement of councillors. The situation had become volatile and the meeting had quickly degenerated “into chaos”. Security personnel had been forced to adjourn the meeting.
The interrupted meeting was rescheduled for 22 August, and then moved to 24 August following security concerns. The Provincial Electoral Officer had gained the impression that the meeting would not proceed on 22 August. The Head of Department (HOD), Mr Thando Tubane, had SMS-ed the municipal manager (MM), to request a postponement, given the security concerns. The purpose of the postponement was to allow some time to increase security measures at the meeting. Political parties were asked to restrict attendance in the public gallery. Mr Pienaar stressed that the SMS was send to the MM, and not to Mr Pienaar himself.
Despite this communication, on 22 August certain parties were waiting for the meeting to start. The MM went to the meeting and indicated to those waiting that it had been postponed until the 24 August. There was a request that the MM address the full council in the council chamber. When he did so, a majority of councillors then decided that they were going to proceed with the meeting that day (the 22nd), regardless of the decision by the MM to postpone it. Mr Pienaar had received word that meeting was proceeding, and had also learned at the time that 16 members had left the meeting. He had asked the MM via SMS to clarify how it was possible that he was proceeding with a meeting that he had agreed to postpone. It seemed that he had attended the meeting on the 22nd, but only in the presence of 17 councillors.
A letter had then been sent to the MM, asking him to explain the situation. Mr Pienaar quoted from the response: “I [the MM] indicated that I went into the chamber to cancel the meeting as requested by COGTA. It should be noted that the South African Police Service (SAPS) had already indicated that there were security concerns. I informed the councillors about the rescheduling of the meeting. Both the provincial electoral officer and myself (the MM) were aware of, and had agreed to, the cancellation of the meeting of the 22nd by Sunday the 21st”. Following the confusion on the 22nd, an ANC caucus referred the meeting to the high court. The court declared the proceedings of the 22nd void. That had given rise to litigation between councillors.
The Chairperson said he was satisfied with Mr Pienaar’s response, but requested that the relevant SMSs and e-mails in Mr Pienaar’s possession, as discussed, should be made available to the Committee. He released the KZN delegation.
Northern Cape: Department of COGHSTA
Mr Alvin Botes, MEC: Department of Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs (COGHSTA), Northern Cape, was present at the meeting along with a team of delegates from municipalities as per the Committee’s previous request.
Mr Botes presented the Section 47 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 performance reports for the province. He began by pointing out that in terms of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) the year 2013 was almost three financial years in the past, and as such he felt the information was somewhat dated. However, the delegation had planned to reflect where possible on the current situation today. He introduced Mr Mogami Manyeneng who would give the presentation.
Mr Manyeneng went into the details of the performance in each of the Department’s six KPAs.
KPA1: Municipal Transformation and Organisational Development.
Overall there were 5 934 posts in the Department of which 17% were vacant, which was a deterioration from 2012/13. There were 120 managerial positions filled, with an additional 25% vacant. There were four acting MMs and four acting chief financial officers (CFOs). Certain CFO positions had been vacant for over six months. The AG had found that signed performance agreements were not in place for 43% of senior managers and MMs. It had been difficult to attract qualified staff. The department had considered trying to send local government servants to university to study local government management.
The Municipal Systems Improvement Grant from National Treasury was intended to improve the support provided to municipalities. R28.48 million had been transferred to municipalities in the 2013/14 financial year, of which 92% had been spent (2012/13: 96%). The remedial actions to build capacity included providing internships and sending officials to universities.
KPA2: Basic Service Delivery.
29 937 (12%) of households did not have access to basic water. The largest water needs were in Ga-Segonyana, where 48% of all households lacked water, Tsantsabane (32%) and Joe Morolong (28%). Some areas reported no access to basic water at all. 57 586 (22%) of households had no access to basic sanitation facilities. The largest sanitation needs were in Ga-Segonyana (70%), Joe Morolong (57%) and Siyancuma (40%). One area reported no access whatsoever. Electricity and energy had been delivered universally. 13 out of 27 LMs reported the status in terms of solid waste services. Of these, eight had provided basic services. All municipalities provided free basic services (FBS) to indigents, and all had FBS policies. Khara Hais had managed to provide FBS to all households.
Mr Manyeneng outlined the remedial actions planned in response to KPA2 challenges. Firstly, the department wanted to better understand and calculate the financial implications of providing FBS. Secondly, it wanted to limit vandalism. This could be done, for example, by installing pre-paid meters, by billing indigents using more than their allocation, and generally improving FBS awareness in communities and the need for cost recovery.
KPA 3: Local Economic Development.
While all municipalities had Local Economic Development (LED) strategies, six had not yet adopted theirs or their LED required review. There had been an increase in implementation plans, and 18 municipalities now had them. 22 municipalities had LED forums, which was also an increase on the previous year. There were eight municipalities that had investment portfolios, which was one less than the number in 2012/13. Projects implemented had yielded approximately 7 535 job opportunities. Less than half of the EPWP budget had been spent (32% of the R 1.143 m budget).
The biggest challenge to the department had been the lack of alignment of LED strategies with the IDP, the service delivery and budget implementation plan (SDBIP), and proper SDFs. The second greatest problem was the financial sustainability of municipalities. Industries needed to recover their costs. He also referred to a shortage of dedicated staff. To remedy these challenges, the department would focus on creating a conducive investment environment. It would roll out a proposed format for LED strategies. There would be a regional and sector-based focus on enhancing IDP/LED planning. The department would capture local trends and use intelligence to realise investments. The department would perform a municipal land audit and create a small, medium and micro enterprise (SMME) database.
KPA 4: Financial Viability.
Sixteen municipalities had ended the financial year with a deficit. In all the district municipalities and at one local municipality, employee costs were more that 35% of total costs. 14 municipalities relied on grants and subsidies for more than 70% of their revenue. 10.7% of conditional government grants and subsidies had been unspent. Repaying creditors accounted for 15% of operating expenditure. Three municipalities had negative bank balances at end June 2014, while 25 had less than three month’s cash coverage.
The challenges for progress were highlighted by a lack of leadership by accounting officers. Municipalities lacked a unified financial reporting framework and performance management skills. There was a failure of internal auditors or audit units to advise accounting officers. Some municipalities did not have internal auditors. Other factors were a declining revenue base and the mismanagement of funds.
Mr Manyeneng described the department’s interventions to address these issues. 30 out of 32 audit action plans had been assessed by COGHSTA. 12 municipalities had made extensive progress in addressing the issues raised, while 13 had made little to no progress. COGHSTA had visited municipalities to assess progress on the implementation of audit action plans, and training had been rolled out in all municipalities on audit action plan templates, and the implementation thereof. COGHSTA had also provided hands-on support on credit control and debt collection policies. A provincial debt collection committee had been established. The finance management grant of R46.8 million had been received and 100% of it had been spent.
The ‘Back To Basics’ programme had been introduced in 2014 with the goal of improving financial viability. This programme was not referred to in the presentation, but was relevant to the discussion. Of the 32 municipalities in the province, two were found to be well-performing, 15 were reasonably well-functioning, and 15 were not performing well. The municipalities that were not performing well were often the same that had not submitted section 47 reports. Another relevant feature not in the presentation was the Municipal Financial Management Act (MFMA) audit outcomes. This document reflected significant improvements in audit outcomes.
KPA 5: Good Governance and Public Participation.
471 councillors’ positions had been filled, of which 37.4% were filled by female representatives. There were 10 female mayors and 13 female deputy mayors. Audit outcomes had improved on average. 29 municipalities had audit committees in place, and 30 had internal audit units. 24 municipalities had functional ward committees and 190 wards had committees. All five district municipalities had functional Intergovernmental Relations Strategies (IGRs) in place. 20 out of 32 municipalities had reported on the number of council meetings held.
Challenges included a lack of a mechanism that was available to committees to translate issues and decisions of ward committees, to find expression in the agendas of the council. The department would consider an amendment of the Municipal Structures Act or Municipal Systems Act in this regard. This may help to reduce the number of protests. Cross-cutting issues identified related to the IDP, and the spatial development and disaster management frameworks.
Mr Manyeneng said that the 2014/2015 report had not been completed, as it was still in the consolidation phase. He expected to have the report completed by April 2017. He briefly described what the Department had achieved so far for 2014/2015.
Mr Botes commented that the incompleteness of the Section 47 report for 2014/2015 was a serious issue. There were eight municipalities that had not submitted their reports to their respective municipal councils in terms of Section 46. These municipalities were the same ones that had been identified as dysfunctional. When the municipalities did not submit, it became impossible for the MEC and the department to complete the Section 47 report. He suggested that it may be necessary to implement a Section 139 intervention. He said there was a lack of political will in these municipalities, and stressed that they were not sustainable from a business perspective.
The Chairperson felt that the MEC’s efforts, and the report itself, were honest. The department needed to investigate the eight municipalities identified and decide how functional they were. Unannounced visits were another tool the Committee could use.
Mr Joseph Willemse, Municipal Manager, !Kheis Municipality, expressed concern about the potential amalgamation of the failing municipalities into his municipality.
Ms T Mokwele (EFF, North West) felt that the presentation highlighted many challenges without properly specifying the remedial actions, especially those on behalf of the MEC. What would be done about the eight municipalities that were not performing? The same applied to the problem of public participation and the expression and voice of ward committees. She pointed out that the Section 47 report for 2014/2015 had not been submitted as required.
Mr D Ximbi (ANC, Western Cape) noted the failure of audit units to advise accounting officers. A declining revenue base was another serious issue. Had the department intervened on these issues to improve the situation?
Mr Dubeni echoed Mr Ximbi’s concerns. There were very serious problems identified in the presentation, such as the lack of leadership of accounting officers, municipalities lacking a financial framework and performance management skills, declining revenue bases and the mismanagement of funds, for example. What was being done to address these challenges? When was the MEC going to perform a proper intervention to solve these issues?
Ms Manopole commented on the unchanging or worsening rates of vacancy and capacity problems. She said that this was comparable to the case of Mpumalanga, heard earlier in the day. If the rates were unchanged, then the interventions had not been working. The same was true of the audit outcomes, as they had not improved significantly.
The Chairperson reminded delegates and Members of the relationship between the provinces and the municipalities, as per the constitution. He requested that the department outline the impediments to minimum competency to be submitted to the Committee. Seven municipalities had underspent on the municipal improvement grant. What had the department done to resolve this? In the presentation, there seemed to be a challenge in attracting human skills and resources. How serious was this challenge? What could the Committee do to assist? Local municipalities were supposed to promote local economic development. Some projects were running on the ground, and were improving the lives of citizens through LED. Could the MEC provide a summary of some LED projects that the department had implemented? The presentation had referred to the mismanagement of funds – were these alleged or proven cases? Were the slides referring to the current Section 106 investigation that was under way? Was there any evidence the MEC could share with the committee?
Mr Botes (MEC) replied that the 2014/2015 report would include all the projects that were under way.
Mr Manyeneng responded to the question of ward committees. He proposed an amendment to the Municipal Structures Act. There were three separate components that guided ward committees in terms of their operations. There should be a specific section that guided them in terms of their elections and the keeping of minutes. This should be mandatory, and not a guideline.
Mr Botes said that there were practical issues when with dealing with ward committees. He responded to Members’ questions generally relating to the interventions that the department had done in response to challenges. The interventions had involved reorganizing municipalities and sometimes agglomerating them. In certain municipalities, the department would need the political support of the Committee in order to address challenges. Lack of capacity was a serious problem, and this required an interface with the Select Committee and other branches of government. The department had instituted MFMA intervention 136 and appointed financial administrators in certain cases. The Northern Cape COGHSTA had a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the National Treasury. One of the Section 106 investigations had been instigated by the mayor of !Kheis. This investigation had been concluded. Another Section 106 investigation had been requested in the Dawid Kruiper municipality.
Mr Botes said these were the mechanisms that the department had used to deal with the issues. Financial prudency and accountable leadership would remain essential. Municipalities must be run in a sustainable way with due regard for the money available. There was a need to empower women into government positions, but also pointed out that training courses remained expensive. The department had tried to address vacancy rates in the Northern Cape this by “seconding” people into positions. There was a high turnover of senior managers, which added to the challenge.
He closed by mentioning the solar electricity projects and the Upington Special Economic Zone (SEZ) as examples of LED projects.
Ms Limakatso Koloi, Mayor: Dawid Kruiper Municipality, confirmed that the LED projects would be reflected in the 2014/2015 report. Dawid Kruiper had significant renewable power projects under way.
Mr Andries Diergaart, Mayor: !Kheis Municipality, also mentioned renewable projects in his district.
Ms Mokwele said that an amendment to the Municipal Structures Act alone was not sufficient. Stakeholders must be participating properly in ward committees and elections, and the issues would get expression. This was the phenomenon which needed legislative support. She also expressed concern about the possible incorporation of different municipalities. She suggested that the Select Committee should make an unannounced visit to the Northern Cape and investigate themselves. What was the department doing to ensure that municipalities had public communication strategies? The department had legislative power to assist municipalities. There was capacity, but the department and municipalities were failing to fill positions due to a lack of retention policies.
Ms Manopole felt that it would be prudent to call the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) to assist in creating and retaining capacity. Recruitment, transfers and secondment were areas where the DPSA could assist. She suggested that a meeting be scheduled to discuss finances and allocations to the municipalities with the Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC).
The Chairperson highlighted the issue of containing costs and retaining talent as a key issue from the day. He did not feel that an amendment was necessary to deal with ward committees. The legislation was already clear and mandated the correct procedures. The problem was to get municipalities and committees to stick to this legislation. Clarity in the interpretation of these documents was important. He reminded Members that the Committee was there to provide support, and not to take control. Finally, he commended the department’s report for meeting the requirements of the law.
The meeting was adjourned.
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