The Committee met to discuss the Western Cape Appropriation Bill: Vote 14, and was briefed by the Department of Local Government on the decreases to its final allocations over the next three financial years. It explained that the decrease in the 2020/21 financial year was due to the allocation during 2019/20 financial year of earmarked funds amounting to R25 million for drought relief, and R5 million to assist fire-fighting services during the fire outbreaks in Overstrand Municipality,.
Members raised concerns about the increase in the compensation of employees, the utilisation of consultants and the welfare of community development workers (CDWs). They suggested the Department should empower municipal officials so they could in-source most of their projects, as this would reduce the amount of money spent on consultants. It should also empower CDWs to curb most of the civil unrest in the communities, especially in the run-up to the 2021 elections. The Department should come up with measures to implement its projects, even in the face of the harsh current economic environment.
The Department said that the increase in the compensation of employees was due to improvements in conditions of service, the filling of vacant positions, the joint district and metro approach, drought management, the forensic unit and the CDW programme, which was the main cost driver. It had reduced the number of its CDWs due to budgetary constraints. The Department was optimistic that it would spend a significant portion of its unspent contingency funds in the current financial year, so there might not be a need to roll-over any excess into the next financial year.
The Chairperson welcomed everyone to the meeting, and invited the Department to brief the Committee on the circumstances surrounding the budget cuts of the Department.
Mr Anton Bredell, Western Cape MEC: Department of Local Government (DLG), said the DLG adopts a joint district and metro approach (JDA) to achieve its mandate. The approach ensures effective collaboration between the provincial, municipal and national departments. The initiative, which involves co-planning, co-budgeting and co-implementation, is coordinated by the district and municipal forum. The initiative translates into better service delivery to the people. The DLG works with relevant role-players to combat corruption and fraudulent practices at various levels of governance. The DLG will engage in thorough investigation, in collaboration with law enforcement agencies, to uncover corrupt practices in the Province.
The Department, like every other department in the province, is adversely affected by the harsh economic and financial climate. The DLG had witnessed significant budget cuts, which might affect its ability to fully implement its programmes. Its budget was cut by 3.9% for the 2020/21 financial year, making the new budget R313 901 000; by 5% for the 2021/2022 financial year, resulting in a budget of R321 955 000; and by 4.1% for the 2022/23 financial year, making the budget R319 195 000.
The reduction for 2020/21 was due to the allocation of R25 million to drought relief and R5 million for fire-fighting services in the 2019/20 financial year. The DLG had earmarked R15.521 million over the medium-term expenditure framework (MTEF) to strengthen its support interventions in municipalities, as required by relevant legislation. The forensic unit would be strengthened by R8.268 million over the MTEF period, and R6.5 million would be spent to support the implementation of the JDA.
All the departments in the Province needed to work together to address the current economic reality. Continuous budget cuts might affect the Department’s ability to implement some of its programmes.
Briefing on Appropriation Bill: Vote 14 Department of Local Government
Mr Graham Paulse, Head of Department (HOD), DLG, said the Department had aligned with the MTSF 2019-2024 goals, which included building a capable, ethical and developmental state; economic transformation and job creation; education, skills and health; consolidating the social wage through reliable and quality basic services; spatial integration, human settlements and local government; social cohesion and safe communities; and a better Africa and world. It also had various measures to align with various focus areas of the vision-inspired priorities, which include increased social cohesion and safety of public spaces; building and maintaining infrastructure; creating an enabling environment for economic growth through resource resilience; youth and skills development; improving the places where people live; integrated service delivery; and governance transformation.
The effective performance of the Department was reflected in an efficient, accountable local government that enabled economic growth; active citizenry, reduced poverty and improved social well-being; and a disaster-resilient province.
The budget allocation had been decreased by 3.9%, to 313.901 million in 2020/21; by 5%, to 321.955 million in 2021/22; and by 4.1%, to 319.195 million in 2022/23.
On the other hand, an additional R3.5 million had been allocated to the upgrading and replacement of the disaster management centre audio visual infrastructure in the 2020/21 financial year. The forensic unit would be strengthened by R2.6 million, R2.8 million and R2.9 million over the next three financial years. The JDA will receive an additional allocation of R2 million for 2020/21, and R2.2 million for 2021/22, and R2.3 million for the 2022/23 financial years. The 15-year Western Cape integrated drought and water response plan will receive an additional allocation of R5 million to be split equally in 2020/21 and 2021/22.
The Department had also had an increase in allocation for the compensation of employees (CoE). The increase was due to the improvements in conditions of service (ICS), the filling of vacant positions, the JDA, drought management, the forensic unit and the community development worker (CDW) programme, which was the main cost driver.
The JDA initiative had led to effective collaboration between the municipal, provincial and national Departments.
Mr A van der Westhuizen (DA) urged the Department to support municipalities through the formulation and implementation of by-laws that would facilitate the desired outcomes. Most of the current legislation did not address the reality the municipalities were currently facing. Also, the Province should effectively support the municipalities and districts in key areas in order to ensure effective service delivery to the people. How did the DLG aim to build capacity in municipalities with respect to supply chain management? There were so many activities in the build up to the 2021 elections. What were the plans of the DLG to curb civil unrest in various communities? Could it empower CDWs to contain civil unrest in municipalities? Why was there significant increase in the CoE?
Mr D Smith (ANC) expressed concern over the increase in CoE. It was worrisome that the Department spent huge amount on consultants. Municipalities could not continue to rely on the services of consultants. Who were these consultants? What did they do for the Department? What was the basis of the money allocated to CDWs? Was the money earmarked for certain programmes or interventions?
Ms M Maseko (DA) wanted to know what the influence of data collection, and the increase in the population of the province, was on the implementation of the Wage Bill. What was the DLG doing to build capacity in municipalities in order to reduce their dependence on consultants?
Ms Nikki Plessis, Western Cape Department of Local Government, said that the increase in CoE had resulted from the ICS, the filling of vacant posts and additional allocation for the JDA and CDWs. Numerous projects run by the Department had also contributed to the increase in the CoE.
Mr Paulse said that officials of the DLG would work with municipal authorities to revise by-laws, where necessary, to address the current challenges. The Department had received R25 million in 2019/ 2020 for drought relief and R5 million for fire-fighting services. It was involved in various community programmes. Its work was based on standardised surveys, which provided data on the population of each municipality. The Department also had data on the economic profile of each district and municipality.
The Department paid between R18 500 and 19 000 per CDW. The number of CDWs recruited would depend on the amount allocated for such a purpose. The DLG now assigned CDWs to places that previously lacked officials, especially in Langebaan. The role of the CDWs was to support the Department and other relevant departments within the province. They also support non-profit organisations (NPOs) and other entities that are vital for the implementation of various programmes. The Department also assists municipalities to update by-laws to meet their current challenges.
An official from the Department said that the Department worked with the municipality to build capacity. This reduced the reliance of the municipalities on consultants, and significantly lowers expenditure. The DLG spends a significant amount of money on drought relief in places like Laingsburg, Beaufort West and Kannaland.
The DLG did not get any allocation for drought relief in the current financial year due to the roll-over of the previous allocation. The Department would transcend from drought relief intervention to drought resilience in subsequent years, and this would require and increased allocation.
Mr Van der Westhuizen expressed concern at the working conditions of the CDWs in the province. How did the DLG ensure that the money allocated to community services was spent on the intended purpose? How did it ensure the welfare of the CDWs? Why was there a decrease in the number of CDWs?
Mr Paulse replied that the DLG had various mechanisms to ensure value for money. It engaged the services of the forensic unit to track expenditure. Consultants were used to implement certain projects, especially when the municipality lacked capacity. This approach ensured timeous implementation of programmes and value for money, affording the municipality enough time for effective service delivery. Most services provided by the consultants were based on scarce skills that were not available in the municipality, such as those involving doctors and engineers.
The Department had reduced the number of CDWs due to budgetary constraints. The municipalities received considerable grants to cater for the CDWs, and accounted to the Department at the end of each financial year.
Mr van der Westhuizen sought clarity on the effectiveness of public participation at the municipal level. Public participation should be handled effectively to achieve the desired results and to ensure value for money.
Minister Bredell replied that the monetary allocation for public participation came from the national Department. The provincial Department ensures that the municipality has the right capacity to implement projects. It works closely with the municipalities to arrange transport and venues for public participation. The DLG plans to engage a service provider to train municipal officials on effective public participation in the next financial year. It also empowers the people in civic education. People should know their representatives and the roles of those representatives. The DLG advises people not to vote for non-performing representatives in subsequent elections.
Ms Maseko appreciated the efforts of the Department. She said Members of Parliament should be empowered and facilitated to engage with communities. This would further empower the people in various communities.
The Chairperson expressed satisfaction with the decrease in the vacancy rate. What was the DLG doing to address the drought in Central Karoo? It was concerning that some of the contingency fund was unspent. Would the Department roll the unspent fund over into the next financial year? Would this not lead to fiscal dumping? Where would it get the additional funds for the forensic unit, given its low budget allocation?
The Minister said that the Department works closely with other departments in the Province. The workload of the forensic unit was increasing; so additional funds were needed. The Department of the Premier had given an additional R40 million to establish the equipment unit. It was important to appoint accredited professionals to handle forensic investigations. The Department had advertised the positions on a number of occasions, but could not find suitable candidates. The contingency fund allowed for flexibility in the budget. Unspent funds would be rolled-over. However, the Department was optimistic that most of the funds would be spent, given the realities that faced it.
The Chairperson appreciated the work done by the Department. He commended the constructive contributions from Members of the Committee.
The meeting was adjourned.
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