The Committee engaged with stakeholders of the Emfuleni Local Municipality in a virtual meeting, and considered its proposed amendments to the Local Government Municipal Systems Amendment Bill. The proposal was to amend section 57A of the Bill, which dealt with instances where the municipality was unable to attract suitably qualified candidates for employment in relation to their qualifications and the competencies of the job description.
During the second half of the meeting, several municipal challenges were raised by Members which were related to the poor supply of electricity in the rural local government municipalities, and poor service delivery. Members discussed issues relating to good governance, municipal competence and irregular expenditure in local government, and the failure to complete projects that perpetuated a lack of service delivery.
The Committee probed allegations of theft, as it was reported that the municipality had been forced to pay R400 million in rewards. It was informed that the Hawks were currently working on cases of corruption at the local government level, and some cases had been referred to the Zondo Commission. Members expressed their dismay at the state of municipalities, saying that the issues were being trivialised. The mayor had been accused of always having incomplete projects and attending funerals, and the municipality had incurred irregular expenditure amounting to R1.7 million on personal protective equipment (PPE) and fast food outlets.
The municipality responded that the audit committee had conducted a forensic report on the expenditure of the municipality, and assured the Committee that in future they would consider reports, attendance and appointment letters when conducting audit and forensic reports. Disciplinary proceedings had also been initiated.
The Committee noted that there was a trend in the municipality for projects to be left incomplete, and the funds allocated were spent or redirected to the National Treasury. The municipality indicated that it had a six-month turnaround plan for service delivery, but it had been deferred until further notice to deal with refuse removal, sewerage and cemetery maintenance.
The Chairperson emphasised the importance of good governance in local government and the ethical standards that needed to be upheld in municipalities. Members were in agreement, emphasising that de-politicisation was an important aspect of good governance.
Local Government Municipal Systems Amendment Bill
The meeting commenced with the Committee considering the proposal to amend section 57A of the Local Government Municipal Systems Amendment Bill.
Clause 1 of the Bill stated that should the Member of the Executive Council (MEC) of the local government fail to respond as contemplated in sub-section 9 of the Bill, such an appointment would be deemed as inconsistent with the Act, provided that all the mechanisms were prescribed.
Members commented on the Bill, and noted that municipalities were not paying the required market-related salaries due to the lack of affordability in their budgets. The amendment to the clause in the Bill was for instances where the municipality was unable to attract suitably qualified candidates for employment in relation to their qualifications and the competencies of the job description. In such an instance, the municipality may appoint the Minister to waive the qualifications needed for the requisite employment in order to attract a suitably qualified candidate. Municipalities often advertised during various times and were unable to attract candidates that were the most suitable for the job description.
The Chairperson said that Clause 3 of the Bill stated that a person who was appointed for work in the municipalities must have the necessary skills and qualifications that were prescribed. She proposed that Clause 5 of the Bill be omitted. Page 5 of the A list was amended to limit political interference in the appointment of candidates.
She proposed that in Clause 6 of the Amendment Bill, a new paragraph was required to be included on the employment contract of the municipal manager (MM). Members discussed whether the municipal council had been given discretion to appoint candidates on a continual basis.
A Member asked about sub-section 6, as indicated on the A list on page 6 in line 25, and suggested amending the paragraph. She said the municipal council had the discretion to appoint members on a fixed term basis. The amendment of the Bill must be given to the councils, who should still have the discretion to appoint members on a fixed term basis.
Mr G Mpumza (ANC) asked whether it was necessary for a council to use its own discretion, as the operations of municipalities differed vastly. The municipalities had been given discretion regarding whether to engage candidates who should be appointed on a contractual or permanent basis.
Ms D Direko (ANC) and Ms M Kibi (ANC) agreed that the council must use its own discretion in the appointment process of candidates at the municipal level.
Mr C Brink (DA) reiterated that the process of appointment had been a contentious issue, and the stance of the DA was that the positions that were advertised must be permanent. If discretion was given to the council, it would accept the amendment.
The Chairperson highlighted to Members the importance of good governance in local government, and the ethical standard that needed to be upheld in municipalities.
Mr Brink emphasised that de-politicisation was an important aspect of good governance, and that the DA, as a political party, was in full support of the amendment of this clause in the bill.
The Chairperson commented that COGTA was committed to the professionalisation of local governance. Moreover, the Bill needed to be submitted to Parliament for further processing. The Members were in agreement.
Emfuleni Local Municipality: Engagement with stakeholders
The Chairperson said that several challenges had been raised, but a poor response had been received. There was an issue with Eskom, where there was poor supply of electricity in the rural local government municipalities. The Chairperson commented that the Emfuleni Local Municipal Council met on a quarterly basis, and the reports of Council meetings needed to be reviewed. She said that the Council was the highest regulatory body. Committee heard that a Councillor suggested rescinding a member for non-compliance and corruption. The Acting Mayor, Cllr Khethiwe Ntombela, made a suggestion that the Councillors rescind and it was decided that the Councillors need to finalise this by the 29 October 2020.
A councillor had complained to the Chairperson regarding the lack of attendance at meetings. The Committee heard that this complainant had previously brought the matter to COGTA’s attention for further intervention. The Chairperson said that a letter had been written to the MM, Mr Yunus Chamda, and it had been submitted to the political bureau in order for it to follow due process. She had decided that a Council sitting needed to take place and must include letters of violation.
The Chairperson had advised the MM to follow due processes prior to the investigation of the violations that have been brought forth. She mentioned that there were allegations of theft, as municipalities had been forced to pay R400 million in rewards. The Hawks were currently working on cases of corruption at the local government level, and some cases had been referred to the Zondo Commission.
An Executive Member of the Council noted that there were elements of mismanagement of funds, and there was a report on cable theft in the municipalities and the corruption that had recently ensued.
Mr Brink requested that clarity seeking questions be sent to the Mayor. He said the Executive was trivialising the state of the municipalities, and whether those municipalities barring Ekhuruleni had applied for the rescission of judgment.
Mr Gift Moerane, Executive Mayor of Emfuleni Local Municipality, said that a formal report must be compiled after the Hawks had concluded their investigations and compiled their own report.
The Chairperson noted that there had been allegations that the Committee had been misled on issues relating to improper relations with a Chinese company. The Mayor had been accused of always having incomplete projects and attending funerals.
Committee Members said that there had been irregular expenditure on personal protective equipment (PPE) and fast food outlets such as KFC and Nandos.
The Chairperson said there was a need for the Mayoral Committee to be transparent and open in their communication.
The Mayoral Committee noted that there tended to be political influence in relation to employment, particularly in Ekurhuleni. There was a need to allow workers to do general jobs.
It had been alleged that the Ekurhuleni municipality had spent R1.7 million on food, but the mayor denied the allegations of mismanagement of funds and that he had avoided his mayoral duties
The meeting was adjourned for lunch and resumed at 13h30.
The audit committee had conducted a forensic report on the expenditure of municipalities. It said that in future they would consider reports, attendance and appointment letters when conducting an audit and forensic reports.
There had been an initiation of disciplinary proceedings. The Mayoral Committee noted that where matters of criminality arise, they must be reported directly to the police.
The previous AG report had stipulated that there had been an exponential increase in irregular expenditure. A Chinese company had been mentioned, and there had been allegations of corruption. The MM responded that there had been negligence in the documentation process in response to the internal audit of the municipalities.
The Chairperson said that before summons was served, several notices had been issued. The MM had developed a detailed programme to increase payment references and to improve administration. The MM noted that there used to be service delivery protests in relation to the supply chain and complaints relating to the administration.
It had been noted that the Municipality had not utilised the provision of section 25 to its benefit.
There was a disagreement in relation to Members not cooperating regarding professionalism during the virtual meeting, and the Chairperson reprimanded them.
The Chairperson complained that there were people who abused the chatrooms, and emphasised that the meeting should be professional.
Mr K Ceza (EFF) said that he had not established proposals in the Committee, and that there were no preparations for questions. He said the Committee must put together the necessary details, as it impeded on service delivery. He continued to highlight issues relating to the lack of service delivery.
The Chairperson asked if there were Members who wanted to raise issues.
The Chairperson raised an issue relating to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) and pleaded that the matter be investigated, and that public participation be allowed through community radio. It was noted that no acknowledgement or executive direction had been given.
She commented that there had been no acknowledgement of the letter. The lack of a response to allegations made on Good Hope radio was unacceptable.
In its response to questions about the interventions of the administration, the municipality said that a close off letter had not been received from the intervention, and there had been a regression in the release of reports which had caused a difficulty in the engagement of the council.
On the allegations about unfinished projects and system collapse, the municipality said it had political evidence regarding the allegations brought forward against it.
The Chairperson commented on the incompetence and incomplete projects which directly affected vulnerable communities, and said that remedial measures needed to be implemented in order to allow for efficiency.
The municipality said that from 2017, the Executive had dealt with grants that were witheld. Due to a new appointment, the Executive could not be mandated. The contractors were from Boiphatong, and a company had been tasked to perform oversight and complete the required duties.
The issue had been brought to the attention of the MEC and it was decided that there is a need for interventions.
The Chairperson said that the Boiphatong contract had a budget of R31 million, when originally R15 million had been allocated for the project. This had not been accounted for. The municipality had failed to exercise oversight in this matter. The Chairperson was concerned that there was inconsistency between what representatives from the municipality were saying and the internal audit report. She stressed that there were people from Emfuleni that were suffering on the ground due to incomplete projects.
She reiterated that the cause of incomplete projects could not be attributed to the structure of the administration. She would meet with the MEC to further discuss the facilitation of the projects. The Committee noted that there was a trend in the municipality for projects to be left incomplete, and the funds allocated were spent or redirected to the National Treasury.
The municipality said it could not interfere in the administration in terms of the tenders, and could only operate in the terrain of oversight. The municipality could not go to the administration and enforce the completion of projects.
The Chairperson acknowledged the role of the Acting mayor as having authority over officials, and could not complain when she had received the mayoral executive capacity.
The Acting mayor defended herself, explaining her job description and the manner in which she was able to operate within her job description.
The Chairperson called upon the MM for comment. He responded that committees had been established, and there was a backlog in the completion of projects due to the Level 5 of the lockdown.
The MM raised an issue about the indictment and it was noted that a seat to the Executive Committee had not been received in the new financial year, and that the projects referred to were from 2017 which remained incomplete.
The Chairperson announced that the bid evaluation committees would meet and report to the Audit Committee accordingly. The operation report had been presented to the MEC and the head of department (HOD) in camera. There was a six-month turnaround plan for service delivery, but it had been deferred until further notice to deal with refuse removal, sewerage and cemetery maintenance. A meeting to effectively conduct the six-month turnaround plan within the stipulated framework had already taken place.
It was noted that there was a 60-page letter in response to the issues raised, which had been sent to the office of the Chairperson. There had been consideration of the incomplete municipal projects, and a strategy to complete the projects was in place. The Municipality said that after the administrator conducted a survey, there was hope that the incomplete projects would be facilitated.
The municipality thanked the Chairperson for her commitment to good governance.
The municipality emphasised that there had been political intervention, and as administrators, it was a matter that they would continuously raise.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Proposed A-List without section 57-7A. Municipal Council has no discretion – only permanent employment of applicable
- EMFULENI Response to questions
- Proposed A-List with addition of section 57-7A – Discretion to Municipal Council to appoint Managers Directly accountable to Municipal Managers on Fixed Term or Permanent basis
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