The Chairperson noted that it was the first time that Gauteng Department had presented a brief before the Committee despite constitutional requirement to present its report annually.
The presentation highlighted the performances of the Department with regard to municipalities and coordination by the Department and the challenges faced by the Department. Some positive highlights were the achievement of unqualified audit outcomes by all the Municipalities in the Province, reduction of overall vacancy rate in the Department from 23% to 12% and the achievement of 30 days and less for payment to creditors.
Challenges highlighted were migration due to the geographic location of Gauteng; difficulty in the electrification of informal settlements; facility debts owed the municipalities by communities and councillors; non-compliance to gender equity guideline in employment; under-expenditure by the Municipalities; and non-performances by the Ward Committees.
The average vacancy rate in the Department was 12%, which showed an improvement over 23% in 2014/15 financial year.
The Committee was not happy with the performance of the Department and engaged the Department in a robust discussion. Members asked what the Department did as a consequence to councillors who were indebted to the municipalities; why the City of Tshwane spent 34% of the Human Settlement grant; why Municipalities retrogressed from obtaining clean audits to unqualified audit outcomes; why the Ward Committee was not functional and what the Department did to assist Ward Committees; why the Committee did not report on the employment of people living with disabilities; and what the Department did to ensure that debtors of Municipalities pay their debts.
The Committee also engaged in deliberations on the challenges faced during briefings on the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Amendment Bill in the Eastern Cape and North West where meetings for the briefing were carried out before Committee Members arrived or were not held at all. A Member also reported that she was not allowed to speak in Gauteng Province because of her political affiliation. The Committee decided on modalities to use for the briefing on Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Amendment Bill and the Khoisan Bill.
The Chairperson welcomed Ms G Oliphant (ANC, Northern Cape), as a new Member of the Committee.
An apology was received from the MEC who ought to have led the delegation but was unavoidably absent. The briefing by the National Department on Traditional leadership would not take place because it had not yet been tabled to the National Assembly (NA); the Committee would take briefing from the Gauteng Province of CoGTA. It called for concern that Gauteng Province was appearing before the Committee for the first time and he highlighted that it was a legislative requirement to present its annual report before the NCOP.
Consolidated Report on Performance of Gauteng Municipalities for the 2015/16 Municipal Financial Year
Ms Thembeka Mosa, HOD, Gauteng Department of CoGTA, said she was newly appointed and was not aware that the Department had never appeared before the Committee.
Despite Gauteng being a small Province in size it has a fair share of the Population and its geographical location possesses certain challenges relating to migrations from other Provinces and countries. Most municipalities, except Merafong City Local Municipality and Emfuleni Local Municipality, did well in relation to their vacancy rates. Adherence and compliance was a problem to Municipalities and the Department had adopted an approach of providing support for the Municipalities without compromising individual roles. Most of the Municipalities did well in compliance on gender equity.
The Department provided Municipalities with training. The average vacancy rate in the Department was 12%, which showed an improvement over 23% in 2014/15 financial year. All Municipalities in Gauteng provided effective services above the set targets in the year under review. Municipalities prioritise facilities but there was a major challenge on the provision of electricity to informal settlements. The ability of Municipalities to provide services and enforcement of payment for electricity by people who can afford to pay was noted. The Department was helping to revive the policies and assisting them with revenue collection. There was a meeting with the Municipalities to get feedback on the interventions by the Provincial Department and their relevance.
Municipalities expressed the need for Provincial support on economic development, climate change and disaster management. Ms Mosa highlighted that some Municipalities, despite having capacity, still failed to meet certain requirements. Except for Midvaal Local Municipality, which received a clean audit opinion, all other Municipalities had unqualified audit opinions; this should be applauded when compared with audit opinions in other parts of the country. Inability to meet target by some of the Municipalities was of concern to the Province. A unique approach was adopted by the MEC of finance to ensure that no Provincial Department was found owing municipalities. Many households were not able to pay for facilities due to the declining economic conditions.
Ms Mosa explained how the Department performed on the National Treasury grant and said the two biggest Metros succeeded in spending only 63% of their grant and there was an engagement with the MEC Finance on the issue. The City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality and Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality did well in spending the energy grant. An average of 71% of the human settlement grant was spent. She highlighted that the key issues on grant was the low capital spending which had not happened in the past. Most creditor payments were done within 30days while some of the Municipalities were already making payments within 15days. With the increasing number of service delivery protests in Gauteng there was a need to look into the functionality of the Ward Committees. The Department was looking at raising the performance of Community Development Workers (CDW), which had been an area of weakness. The effectiveness of public participation had been enhanced through monthly communication with the public. She listed the issues that were raised by the Accountant General and the efforts that were made to resolve these issues.
Challenges were listed as migration; provision of basic services in informal settlements; employment equity by the Municipalities; and the difficulty in the provision of electricity to informal settlements. Among the recommendations were the need for alignment in plans and budgeting and need for the National Department of CoGTA to possibly review the MSA and Regulations.
Mr Hamilton Moroka, Director, Service Delivery, Monitoring and Evaluation, said the Province would always want to know how promptly councillors pay for services rendered by the Municipalities. He noted a relationship between Municipalities that are doing well and the Councillors’ commitment to prompt payment. Some of the blank spaces under allocation in the table implied that the Municipalities were not qualified for that specific grant.
Ms B Engelbrecht (DA, Gauteng) thanked the delegates for the presentation; it was an excellent summary of the activities in the Province. She observed that figures were provided for the indicators in the slides, it would be good if percentages are included in future. She asked what the Department was doing concerning the huge amount of illegal connection of electricity and how it was assisting Municipalities concerning this. She asked how the Department would justify the huge cost spent on the ward Committee with their effectiveness and it was something that should be checked. She asked if there was anything done by the Department to recover the money from the Party to which Councillors that are indebted belong to.
Ms Oliphant applauded the presentation and said Councillors who owe should pay the Municipalities because they should live by example. She asked why the Department did not make a stop order through the bank since the Councillors were employees of the government instead of reporting non-payment by these councillors to the Committee.
Mr J Mthethwa (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) asked what reasons were given by the Councillors that owed the Municipalities. He also asked what could be done about the challenges created by migrants; and asked the Department to explain the reasons given by Municipalities for not filling available vacancies.
He said for the first time, there was no electricity supply in Johannesburg for more than two weeks and explained that it was expensive for the country because Johannesburg is a commercial hub of the country. He asked if the Department provided any kind of assistance to the Municipality to avoid power outages in the future. What was the Department doing to ensure that the Departments indebted to Municipalities pay their debts?
Mr M Mthimunye (ANC, Mpumalanga) congratulated the new Head of Department. Under expenditure and over expenditures are criminalised in the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and asked if there were consequences around overspending and under expenditures, and if these consequences were tied to the performance contract of the accounting officers.
He asked if the challenges encountered by the billing system of two big metros in Gauteng had been resolved. He said there was a court judgment that historical debts cannot be carried over to new owners of property, and asked what the Department was doing to ensure houses provided to people are hijacked. The sale of houses without owner’s consent was massive in Gauteng and the Department must look into that.
Ms T Mokwele (EFF, North West) noted that the Section 47 of the Municipal Systems Act requires that a report must be submitted annually concerning the performance of the Municipalities and the remedial actions of the Provincial Department on their shortcomings. All the Department did was to make promises on what would be done. The report was on 2015/2016 report which ended 31 March 2016 and new Councillors had been elected after the report was compiled, which of the councillors was indebted to the Municipalities, the old or new Councillors?
She asked why Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality moved from having a clean audit opinion in two successive years to an unqualified audit and the assistance offered by the Department to reverse it. She asked for the steps taken on the performance of the managers. The transitional grant transferred to Rand West City was not spent at all and she would like to know the implication of this.
There was an issue in Midvaal Local Municipality where there was protest for houses and the issue fell within the scope of the Provincial Department of CoGTA, what coordination did the Department have with sister departments to address the problem.
She asked how often community liaison officers interacted with ward Committees in other to assist the Ward Committees. She also asked how often the department receives reports from the Ward Committee.
Mr M Chetty (DA, KwaZulu-Natal) said the presentation spoke on Section 54 and 56 Managers, and asked about the legality of people that remain in Acting positions as Section 57 managers for as long as one year.
The report indicated zero percent government debt but it was difficult to believe considering the challenges with government departments in other Provinces.
No Councillor should be in arrears based on the provision of the law, and erring Councillors were not allowed to contest an election. He asked what the Department had done about Councillors that owed the Municipalities. If unemployed people were disconnected from services, why were councillors allowed to owe their employers.
Mr Chetty asked why the City of Tshwane spent only 34% of the human settlement grant allotted to it despite the huge challenge of housing in the country. It was not right that there were no Ward Committees despite Ward Councillors being elected. The performance of the Department retrogressed which was unacceptable to the Committee.
Mr M Monakedi (ANC, Limpopo) said although the MEC tendered an apology for his absence, it was important that the Principal Officer must be encouraged to be present in future meetings so that the Committee can interact directly with them. It was necessary for the HOD to thoroughly go through the document before approaching the Committee to present it, which was not the case with the presentation of the day. He asked the Department to specify to whom the recommendations were directed. Based on the presentation, performances had remained the same or retrogressed when compared with previous years.
He asked what the Department was doing to assist Emfuleni Local Municipality to recover from a retrogressed state.
There was no progress reported on the Accountant General’s findings.
The Chairperson said reports were tools to enhance the oversight responsibilities of the Committee and there were lots of limitations in the report. He said engaging with technocrats in the absence of the Principal Officer limits the ability to engage politically such that someone can be held accountable.
He said the action of the Department on under-performing Municipalities must be reported because it is a legislative requirement and would help the Committee in its oversight functions. A template was developed by the National Department, of which the integrated Development Plan (IDP) was important. Municipalities are expected to report on IDP but nothing was said about it and nothing was said about people living with disabilities.
Gauteng had higher issues with informal settlements and housing protests but there were often no responses from the Departments. He said the Committee would allow the delegates to explain what they were sure about and take time to get sincere responses to other questions. He requested that they respond to questions that they had answers to.
Ms Mosa thanked the Committee and said the Department noted the concerns around the report. The notice for the meeting was received a day before the meeting and the report was hurriedly prepared. She promised that such would not happen again. The issues raised were genuine and the Department would have to find a creative way of navigating the process of doing things the right way. She was not aware of the issue of the Councillors and the late notification compromised the quality of the report
The Chairperson said the report was not new and the Department ought to have sent the report to the National Minister and asked if she had sent it.
Ms Mosa said she had not sent the report.
The Chairperson said as the Head of Department she must acknowledge where there are shortcomings and not hide behind excuses. He was a mayor in a certain Municipality and inherited the issue of open toilets and took responsibility for it and the problem was solved.
Ms Mokwele said it was often difficult when Provinces came without a political head because most of the questions asked do not require administrative responses but political. She recommended that the matter be closed for the day and the Department should work on the responses of the Committee so that it would know what to bring to the next meeting.
Mr Monakedi agreed that the meeting should be closed to allow the Department to seek further clarification.
Ms Mosa appreciated the Committee; the late notification was the fault of the Department and not the fault of the Committee. It was due to inefficiency in the office of the MEC. The Department would return with plans and actions taken to address some of the issues raised.
The Chairperson appreciated the delegates for their response and discharged them.
Update on Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Amendment Bill briefing
The Chairperson said the last item of the agenda was reflections on the briefing on Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Amendment Bill. A programme was developed where commitments were made by different Provincial legislature concerning the dates and venues for the briefings and the National Department of CoGTA was asked to deploy officials to accompany the Committee. Presentations were done in the following Provinces: Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Gauteng and Free State. There was a challenge with North West and the Eastern Cape and the actions of these Provinces needed to be condemned. Committee Members arrived at the meeting venues at the scheduled time and some meetings were concluded while meetings were not held in some other places. Committee Officials had been instructed to write the Portfolio Committee concerned and the Provinces to demand clarification on the issue. Also, with regard to the matter, a letter was received from the National Department stating that there was concern of fruitless and wasteful expenditure. These provinces did not take the Committee seriously.
Coordination Plan on Khoisan Bill Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Amendment Bill
The Chairperson said the Committee made a decision to do the briefings of the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Amendment Bill and the Traditional and Khoisan leadership Bill concurrently, but it was realised that concurrency would impact negatively on the effectiveness of the process. He proposed that the Committee should target Provinces that had never dealt with the provision of Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Amendment Bill since its inception in 2003 because public participation was still pending. The Provinces would be dealt with when the Committee dealt with the Khoisan Bill because it would be dealing with the merits of the Act.
Mr Chetty supported the proposed action of the Chairperson on the behaviour of the Provinces towards the Committee. Though the Chairperson recommended selecting three of the nine Provinces, some Provinces had already advertised public participation and proposed that the three Provinces selected should be pronounced only after the Provinces had completed their Public Participation. He would support the proposition as long as the nine Provinces would be covered when dealing with the Khoisan Bill. It was important that the Committee was flexible because Committee Members are answerable to their Provinces
The Chairperson said the Committee would make a statement but reminded Members that the Khoisan Bill was a Section 76 Bill. Hence, the Committee would make a statement but would work on the Mandate of the Provinces because it was a Constitutional requirement.
Ms Mokwele said she had indicated earlier that there would be a challenge in North West Province. It was not right that officials chose not to communicate with the Committee because of their political affiliation. The Department only informed her of the official attached to her for the meeting by 9pm prior the day of the meeting. The call was dropped when she tried to communicate with the official which had an effect on the delivery. She noted that it was not the first time such an incident was happening as it had happened during the Disaster Management Bill. She would not allow herself to be subjected to such humiliation again if the attitude was repeated during the meeting on Friday. She agreed with the proposition of the Chairperson. She asked if the Committee would go on two separate trips for the two Bills and asked for the modalities around the briefing.
The Chairperson said the challenge was based on the LAMOSA judgment. The LAMOSA judgment made it clear that it is an obligation for the NCOP to embark on consultation. Therefore, if the Committee could not do the entire country there must be justification that consultation was done, which necessitated the need to select three Provinces. He said the more detailed of the Bills in terms of merit was the Khoisan Bill. The Khoisan Bill would help to elevate the pressing issues of the Committee. The Traditional Leadership Amendment Act l was more of an extension and it should be clarified explicitly that the Committee was not dealing with the merit but the technical issues of the Bill.
Ms Engelbrecht faced a challenge during the briefing in Gauteng. She was told that she was not allowed to speak because she was not a Member of the legislature and this stand was supported by the Chairperson of CoGTA in the Province. She was told that a Member of the DA was not allowed to speak in the ANC Committee. She requested that the Chairperson write a letter to Gauteng Province to correct the error.
The Chairperson said the outcomes of a briefing belonged to the NCOP and it should be responsible for relaying the outcome to the Portfolio Committee. The NCOP needed to clarify that when it invited the Department for a briefing the outcome was supposed to champion the processes. Also, the NCOP needed to do its own in-house work and prepare a template for the process so that Members would be aware of what was expected of them and simplify the work of the Committee.
The Chairperson said the issue of traditional leadership attracts a lot of emotions from people, yet the Committee had condemned the negative attitude of people in the Provinces reported.
Ms Oliphant suggested that the Committee must make all the Provinces aware of what was expected of them with regard to the complaints lodged by Committee members.
The Chairperson noted the suggestion, but it would be important to address the Provinces affected directly and not use a blanket approach to the matter.
Ms Engelbrecht asked if the Committee would write to Gauteng that their actions were wrong, and if there was a need for her to write an official letter to that effect.
The Chairperson said the concern of Ms Engelbrecht was noted and clarity would be sought from Gauteng, North West and Eastern Cape Provinces on reported matters.
He apologised for the long meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.