The Standing Committee was briefed by the Department of Local Government on its fourth quarterly performance report, and expressed general satisfaction with the level of achievement against its targets. However, questions were asked as to whether the over-achievements recorded were due the criteria that were set to enable small municipalities to meet their targets. Members also wanted to know if indicators could be adjusted during the course of the year if it was obvious they were inappropriate.
The Members of the Committee expressed their satisfaction with the presentation from the department and raised questions on pressing issues. Some of the questions that were raised by the standing Committee were on the criteria and approaches used by the Department in small municipalities in order to meet their required targets in each quarter. Other questions were on the flexibility of the indicators used by the government and whether or not they could be changed. The Department pointed out that many of their indicators were demand-driven, such as disaster management and fire services, which they could not predict.
The Committee then deliberated and discussed the public participation process to be followed in respect of the Local Government Municipal Structures Amendment Bill [B 19B] (NCOP) (s76) and agreed to adopt the advertisement to be disseminated to the public, with minor amendments. Members stressed the need to make use of radio, as many communities did not receive, or could not read, newspaper advertisements.
The Committee also considered and adopted previous Committee minutes, the quarterly reports for the third and fourth quarters of 2019/20, the annual report for 2019/20, and the draft report of its oversight visit to Westridge Gardens and Lentegeur Interface (PTI) informal trading area in February.
Department of Local Government: Fourth Quarter Report
Mr Albert Dlwengu, Director: Policy and Strategic Support, Department of Local Government (DLG) said the Department did a validation of the performance evaluation, because everything had to be based on evidence. During that process, it begins to align the numbers reported with the evidence that they have, and the numbers changed immediately once they had done the validation. He said the dates of the presentation had been revised due to the national lockdown, and explained how the validation process had been done.
In the fourth quarter, some of the targets that had not been achieved might have been achieved in the previous quarters, and this would be indicated in the presentation, as this was a summary of the findings from the second, third and fourth quarters. In 2019/20, the Department had had a total of 88 targets, which included the customised set of national Indicators. In the second quarter, there were 32 indicators that were due for reporting in the third quarter, and all had been achieved. In the third quarter, 31 indicators were due for reporting, and all were achieved. For the fourth quarter, 66 indicators were due for reporting, 62 were achieved (94%), three were partially achieved, and one was achieved in the previous quarter. Those that were not achieved in the fourth quarter had either been achieved in previous quarters or had not yet been validated because of the national lockdown.
Mr Dlwengu gave a detailed explanation of the major performance indicators by category, with reference to the full document provided to the Standing Committee. The categories included administration, municipal governance and specialised support, sector performance indicators, public participation, capacity development, municipal performance monitoring, reporting and evaluation, service delivery integration, the Community Development Worker Programme, municipal infrastructure, disaster management and fire services, and integrated development planning.
Ms M Maseko (DA) asked for clarity on the over-achievement detailed under the municipal government and specialised support section. What criteria had been used to choose the municipalities that were involved in the public participation section, and what had been the positive outcome or challenge of the criteria.
Ms Eda Barnard, Chief Director: Municipal Performance Monitoring and Support, responded that the over-achievement came as a result of various municipalities attending on those particular platforms, which had pushed the numbers up. Since it was a demand-driven indicator, it was based on the demands and requests of municipalities.
Ms Nozuko Zamxaka, Chief Director: Integrated Service Delivery, replied to the question on the criteria the Department used to involve municipalities in public participation. She said that in the past two years, the DLG had gone to specific municipalities and opened platforms where they had taught the local communities how to engage and hold their municipalities accountable, and had allowed participants to speak using their home language (English, isiXhosa and Afrikaans). This had allowed them to create a comprehensive video programme on public participation, and they had then gone to other municipalities and played the videos, which had spread the knowledge and comfort for communities to hold their municipalities accountable.
Ms Maseko followed up by seeking clarity on why the Department set the annual target at a very low level, yet still allowed for more demands from municipalities for specialised support. In the previous year there had not been much demand from municipalities -- why had the demand increased drastically, and what had the Department done differently, or what had changed?
Mr P Marran (ANC) asked whether it was possible for the annual targets to be adjusted or changed during the financial year because of the over-achievements.
Ms Barnard said that the low annual targets had been set with a focus on low-capacitated municipalities, and taking into account training that had been conducted in those municipalities in previous years. However, during the course of the year, there had also been uncertainty over the legislation pertaining to the legal systems, so the over-achievements would have been achieved when the Department had been required to go to those municipalities to give clarity on the new legislation.
Mr Graham Paulse, Head of Department, explained that when the Department set annual targets, they looked at their achievements for the past three years, and used the average number of assistances that they had provided. In some cases, they would find there were some cases that would lead to them underachieving or overachieving, since some of these were demand-driven indicators -- for example disaster management and fire services -- which they could not predict.
He said that the Department was not allowed to review its targets during the year if they had been discussed and agreed upon in Parliament, because that would allow them to manipulate results.
Mr A van der Westhuizen (DA) asked to what extent the Department had followed the prescribed template for the inclusion of performance indicators in the reports, because many of the indicators seemed to be demand-driven targets that were outside of the control of the Department. Was it possible to include indicators that were more quality-based, compared to the more quantity-based indicators, in future reports?
Mr Paulse replied that the reporting that the Department did was quantity-based, and in terms of quality, there were evaluations that they were doing. On an annual basis they select an area in the APP where they had done work in a municipality, and do an evaluation in terms of the quality of the intervention that they had performed. This was where they measured the value that they had added in the particular municipality in terms of support, and then after the evaluation they would either change or improve, based on their findings from the evaluation.
Mr D Smith (ANC) asked about the criteria being used to give support to municipalities, especially those that were smaller in terms of population and income, as they may remain small in the next five to ten years.
Mr Paulse replied that municipalities, whether big or small, were invited by the Department in line with the APPs to submit their business plans and proposals for support, especially in terms of infrastructure growth plans. He explained that there was also the town growth study that the Department had, in collaboration with the Department of Environmental Affairs and development planning, which gave an indication in terms of population growth and planning on infrastructure, as well as water and sanitation projects, water treatment plants and electricity capacity etc, which would help the small municipalities in terms of development over the next five to ten years.
The Chairperson suggested that the Department should try to provide financial expenditure per quarter in the future, to allow for better understanding. He then allowed the Department to leave the meeting.
Local Government Municipal Structures Amendment Bill
The Chairperson asked the Committee to discuss the public participation process to be followed in respect of the Local Government Municipal Structures Amendment Bill [B 19B-2018] (NCOP) (s76).
He said that at the previous meeting, the Committee had agreed that there would be an amendment to the Bill, and in order to continue with the amendment the public needed to be able to participate and share their opinions before the new Bill was passed. However, due to the national lockdown, this had resulted in the Committee having to find an alternative way of including the public in the discussion in order to minimise risk and exposure to COVID-19. He added that should conditions change, the process of engaging the public would again be reviewed.
The Chairperson also explained that the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) intended dealing with the Bill towards the end of July, or the beginning of August. The Committee had agreed on using the media to spread the message on how the public could participate by sharing their opinion on the amendment of the Bill, so the discussion would be on whether or not it was satisfied with the advertisement.
Mr J Coetzee, Procedural Officer of the Standing Committee, said he had requested quotations from various newspapers across the province in three official languages (isiXhosa, English and Afrikaans) in order for the advertisement to be posted. He had received two quotations for R51 300 and R45 500, and the size of the advertisement would be 16 cm x 3 columns. What might increase the amount of the quotation was that in some newspapers, they might need to post the advertisement twice -- in English and Afrikaans, or in English and isiXhosa.
Mr Smith suggested that the Weslander location be included in the advertisements, because it also covered the Saldanha the West Coast areas of the province.
The Chairperson agreed to Mr Smith’s suggestion, and suggested that Mr Coetzee add this location on the list.
Ms Maseko suggested that local radio stations should also be used to spread the advertisement in order to access those communities that did not have access to newspapers, or could not read.
The Chairperson noted Ms Maseko’s suggestion, and said that there would also be a whatsApp service that they would make available for people to share their opinions.
Mr Marran suggested that because letters communicating the advertisement would also be sent to mayors and leaders of municipalities, the message would reach most people, and because it would be verbal, those who could not read would be able to receive the information.
Ms Maseko said that situations differed in different municipalities, and that some people did not even go to their local municipal offices, therefore the information would not reach as many people as anticipated. She suggested that it was important to include local radio stations in the advertisement of the information, especially because during the national lockdown, radio and Television were more accessible to people than newspapers.
Mr Van der Westhuizen suggested that the advertisements should indicate that the WhatsApp messages would be written messages.
The Chairperson said that they should keep the option to send voice messages to the people open, and then the transcribers would deal with the matter before it was submitted to the Standing Committee.
Mr Smith suggested that once the advert was agreed upon by the Members, it must be shared with them so they could also spread the message in their personal social media accounts.
The Chairperson agreed with Mr Smith’s suggestion.
Mr Coetzee suggested there should be a time limit for the WhatsApp voice messages that the people were allowed to send.
The Chairperson disagreed, and suggested that people must be allowed to express themselves freely.
Mr Marran moved the adoption of the draft, and Mr Smith seconded.
Adoption of reports and minutes
Ms Maseko moved the adoption of the minutes of 13 March, and Mr Van der Westhuizen seconded.
Mr Smith moved the adoption of the minutes from 27 November 2019, and Mr Marran seconded..
Mr Van der Westhuizen proposed the adoption of the minutes of May 5, and Mr Smith seconded.
The Chairperson proceeded to the next item on the agenda, Quarterly Reports (October 2019 – December 2019) (January 2020 – March 2020), starting with
Mr Smith proposed the adoption of the Quarterly Report from October to December 2019, pending corrections if needed. Mr Van der Westhuizen seconded the adoption.
Ms Maseko proposed for the adoption of the Quarterly Report from January – March 2020. Mr Smith seconded the adoption.
Mr van der Westhuizen proposed for the adoption of the Annual Report for the year 2019/20. Ms Maseko seconded the adoption.
Ms Maseko proposed the adoption of the Draft Report of the Standing Committee on Local Government on its oversight visit to Westridge Gardens and the Lentegeur Public Transport Interface (PTI) informal trading area on Tuesday 18 February 2020. Mr Van der Westhuizen seconded the adoption.
The Chairperson proceeded to the next item on the agenda, the proposed Committee Programme.
The Procedural Officer said he could not find the Committee Programme, and the Chairperson as well as the Standing Committee Members confirmed that they had not received the programme.
Ms Maseko suggested that once the Committee Programme was found, it should be sent to each Member via email, and they would respond in support of the document.
The Chairperson agreed with Ms Maseko.
The Chairperson moved to the last item on the agenda, and asked the Members to suggest any resolutions and actions.
Ms Maseko suggested that the Department provided a corrected quarterly performance report, as the one that they provided earlier had alluded to municipal capacity instead of the legislation. She also asked the Department to provide more clarification on how they set their targets for each quarter.
Mr Marran raised a question about the advertisement, and whether or not the letter should be written as a resolution to be sent out to the Mayors and municipalities.
The Chairperson confirmed that the letter had been completed and should be sent out as soon as possible. He also agreed with Ms Maseko, and said that the Standing Committee should receive the presentation that the DLG made for the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA).
The meeting was adjourned.
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