The Western Cape Department of Local Government briefed the Standing Committee on Local Government on its first quarter performance and expenditure report. The meeting was held on a virtual platform.
The Department reported twelve indicators were fully achieved, and one indicator partially achieved. Other indicators would be reported on over the next three quarters. Concerning municipal governance, against an annual set target of 20, only five assessments were conducted on senior management appointments in accordance with legal prescripts. These were conducted in the municipalities of Theewaterskloof, Knysna, Cederberg, and George Local Municipality.
On corporate services, 100% achievement has been recorded. All interim and annual financial statements were submitted. This means there has been 100% level of compliance with financial legislative framework. Regarding capacity development, 25 municipalities, against an annual target of 25, have been guided to comply with the Municipal Property Rates Act. Pertaining to municipal monitoring, reporting and evaluation, only one report, against an annual target of two, has been produced to provide insight into municipal status. The report focuses on the state of oversight, governance and service delivery within municipalities in the Western Cape.
About specialist support, a quarterly report, against four set annual targets, has been produced in respect of assessments and investigations pertaining to allegations of fraud, corruption, and maladministration. When it comes to public participation, there has been one support action, against a set annual target of five, taken to improve citizen interface. Against a set annual target of 24, nine municipalities were supported to maintain functional ward committees. A total of 16 057 work opportunities have been reported through the Community Works Programme, against a set annual target of 17 700. As a result of COVID-19, not all work-programme sites were fully functional and a number of participants relocated to other provinces.
The Department also indicated that, as at 30 June 2021, the local government expenditure has been sitting at 14.6%. The administration programme has spent 16.6% of its budget against an allocation of R62.423 million, while the local governance programme spent 14.4% of its annual allocation of R119.117 million. The development planning programme spent 13.4% of its R87.123 million annual budget, while the traditional institute management programme has spent 0%.
Members wanted to understand the extent to which the Integrated Development Plan cycles are aligned to the terms of office of the municipal councils. They asked if the output of 23 related to senior managers was an indication the vacant posts would be filled. They also asked how the Department was getting information on community work programmes and who was doing the monitoring, because, in the past, there have been reports of workers not being paid
Members also wanted to understand why seven municipalities were not given support in terms of compliance with Municipal Systems Act. They asked if the IT tender specifications are extended every year because the industry moves fast every year.
Briefing by the Western Cape Department of Local Government
Ms Bhavna Sewlall-Singh, Chief Financial Officer, Western Cape Department of Local Government, briefed the Committee on the first quarter performance and expenditure report of the Provincial Department (Department). She reported that thirteen indicators were due for reporting in the first quarter. Other indicators would be reported on over the next three quarters. Twelve indicators were fully achieved, and one indicator partially achieved.
On corporate services, 100% achievement has been recorded. All interim and annual financial statements were submitted. This means there has been 100% level of compliance with financial legislative framework. Concerning municipal governance, against an annual set target of 20, only five assessments were conducted on senior management appointments, in accordance with legal prescripts. These were conducted in the municipalities of Theewaterskloof, Knysna, Cederberg, and George Local Municipality. Three assessments on Municipal Public Account committees (MPACS) were conducted against a set annual target of 10. A total of 23 municipalities were supported to comply with MSA regulations on the appointment of senior managers against an annual set target of 30.
About specialist support, a quarterly report, against four set annual targets, has been produced in respect of assessments and investigations pertaining to allegations of fraud, corruption, and maladministration. When it comes to public participation, there has been one support action taken to improve citizen interface, against a set annual target of five. Against a set annual target of 24, nine municipalities were supported to maintain functional ward committees. A total of 16 057 work opportunities have been reported through Community Works Programme (CWP), against a set annual target of 17 700. As a result of COVID-19, not all CWP sites were fully functional, and a number of CWP of participants relocated to other provinces.
Regarding capacity development, 25 municipalities, against an annual target of 25, have been guided to comply with the MPRA (Municipal Property Rates Act). Pertaining to municipal monitoring, reporting and evaluation, only one report against an annual target of two, has been produced to provide insight into municipal status. The report focuses on the state of oversight, governance and service delivery within municipalities in the WC.
In connection with service delivery integration, one support action, against an annual target of three, was undertaken to improve the functionality of District IGR (Inter-governmental Relations Policy and Legislation) Fora. Out of four annual targets, only one has been achieved, in improving the functionality of Provincial IGR Fora. On disaster management and fire services, four annual targets out of 10 were achieved, in facilitating co-ordination of disaster management partnerships. On supporting organs of state to ensure disaster readiness and response, two out of four annual targets were recorded. One training programme against a target of six has been undertaken, to improve fire and life safety in the province.
Lastly, Ms Sewlall-Singh then took the Committee through the expenditure report. As at 30 June 2021, the local government expenditure has been sitting at 14.6%. The administration programme has spent 16.6% of its budget against an allocation of R62.423m, while the local governance programme spent 14.4% of its annual allocation of R119.117m. The development planning programme spent 13.4% of its R87.123m annual budget, while the traditional instate management programme has spent 0%.
(Graphs and tables were shown to illustrate budget expenditure and allocations. See attached document.)
Mr A Van der Westhuizen (DA) wanted to know if challenges experienced during the previous year around the procurement of air quality equipment were resolved or if there would still be a repeat. Also, he enquired about the extent to which the IDP (Integrated Development Plan) cycles are aligned to the terms of office of the municipal councils. Lastly, he asked if the CFO has got concerns to share with the Committee on municipal monitoring and reporting, seeing that 29% of the total budget has been spent.
Ms Sewlall-Singh stated that the Provincial Department has never purchased anything related to air-quality equipment. Maybe the Committee is confusing that with the work of another department. She further indicated there are no budget concerns related to transfers to municipalities, at this stage. There could be delays related to the resignations, retirement and recruitment of people during the year. Those are the things that are beyond the control of the Department. At the time, the Department was doing its projections for the year; it did not know there will be few resignations from June. So, it is difficult to state what the overall expenditure would be. Further, there are no concerns regarding infrastructure or municipal monitoring. Infrastructure, in this case, refers to the recruitment of the engineers. Programme one is still where it needs to be. Municipal capacity building is on track, while municipal performance comprises grants that need to be administered – municipal support, and integrated service delivery. Programme four has seen no expenditure so far, even though the programme has been opened.
Ms Nozuko Zamxaka, Chief Director: Integrated Service Delivery, Western Cape Department of Local Government, explained that Section 25 of the Municipal Systems Act states that, when a municipal council comes into office, it must adopt the IDP for its term of office. In general, the adoption goes with the adoption of the budget. If the council does not have sufficient time, it has got an option to either adopt the IDP of its predecessor or adopt an amended IDP. But if it has got sufficient time, it can adopt a new IDP. So, the IDP is aligned to the term of office of the municipal council.
Mr P Marran (ANC) said that his concern was on public participation relating to the set target of 17 700 CWP work opportunities. He wondered if that meant the workers were in the system. He asked if the output of 23 related to senior managers was an indication the vacant posts would be filled and asked for clarity on the R2.2m of the R76m spent on municipal programmes and 11% spent of infrastructure. To him, it appeared that most set targets were achieved and the budget would be spent by the end of the financial year.
Mr Graham Paulse, HOD, WC Department of Local Government, stated that one objective has been achieved. Lots of transfers have been on fire-fighting services. There is an interim command training that has been done online. It is not an over-achievement, but it had to be done earlier to prepare for the fire season.
Mr Kamal Makan, Director: Municipal Governance, Western Cape Department of Local Government, said that infrastructure targets are demand-driven. All the funding has been committed for projects in municipalities. The handling of payments is on a claim basis; that is part of the controls put in place, and it explains why the Department is on 11%. The Department has got a group of hydrogeologists on the ground to assist with projects and quality control; it paid on a claim basis, as mentioned.
Ms Eda Barnard, Chief Director: Municipal Performance Monitoring & Support, Western Cape Department of Local Government, explained that the Department was dealing with a high number of senior management appointments. In terms of the law, the Provincial Minister has got to review these appointments and report to the councils about them. These are demand-driven requirements because the Department does not know the resignations and movements of senior managers that are going to take place during the year. This year the Department decided to use the tendencies of the past few years as a benchmark. The Department has taken into consideration that this year is unusual because the date of elections has been moved twice and a high number of senior officials has been seen moving around. It is anticipated that the number will get high and higher as the election date nears. The Department responds as the need arises.
Ms L Maseko (DA) asked how the Department was getting information on CWP and who was doing the monitoring because in the past there have been reports of workers not being paid.
Ms Zamxaka explained the CWP is a national programme and its role is to assist the National Department in terms of oversight. The National Department has appointed implementing agents to implement the programme on the ground. The Western Cape has got two implementing agents that have got their own site managers for monitoring participants. The Department receives figures and information from the implementing agents and local representative committees that comprise the Department, implementing agents and municipal ward committees. So, the Department is aware of what is happening about the programme. She also said they assist the Department on many issues that need to be unblocked within the province. The manner in which the CWP has been implemented has not changed.
The Chairperson wanted to understand why seven municipalities were not given support in terms of compliance with Municipal Systems Act.
Mr Makan stated that, when it came to national key performance indicators (KPIs), the output indicated has got to do with providing details to the Western Cape Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) on a quarterly basis. A target of 33 has been reached. All municipalities were supported, including the ones that have not provided quarterly reports about the type of support they require. In each quarter, the Department provides legal advice and opinions on regulations about senior management appointments and conditions in all municipalities.
Mr Paulse also provided an overview to some of the concerns raised by the Members. He informed the Committee that have done the strategy on the local government elections and it has been submitted to the cabinet and intelligence on local government. The Department would now do an assessment on both implications on legal and practical perspective so that the contracts of senior managers come to an end at the end of elections or after five years – whatever comes first. He also indicated that the IDPs and budget drafts have to be done by councils before the elections and the Department is looking at the implications of that legally and practically seeing that the election date has been shifted twice. The alignment of the IDPs and budgets has been critical for municipalities as well as the extension of employment of senior managers. He further pointed out that a certain percentage of the R76m allocated to the Department went to initiatives alleviating the impact of Covid-19. This relates to support given to small business development programmes, and due diligence has been done in the province in consultation with the national department and various stakeholders. The Provincial Minister has been briefed on proposals, some of which the Minister has agreed to. These proposals are going to be submitted to the provincial treasury and cabinet to determine which municipalities would be assisted. That money would be spent in the next month or two.
Mr Van der Westhuizen mentioned that, in 2020, that the Department had to procure IT equipment for remote work but there was unavailability of equipment. He asked the Department to indicate if it foresees any of the hiccups this year. He further remarked that the Department equipped local government councillors with information, and it has been assumed that money has been budgeted this year – even though elections have been moved to March 2022. He asked how this procurement has impacted on the budget for the training of councillors.
Ms Sewlall-Singh said that the Department has procured all the IT equipment. There were challenges last year because of delays in the delivery of the equipment. The equipment was ordered around January and February but got delivered in June because of the expired SETA contract. The contract expired and has gotten an extension. So, such an incident was not foreseen that it would re-occur this time around. The Department has embarked on an IT refresh process because the equipment the Department requires takes time to arrive. The current equipment is very old, and so the Department needed to change things, seeing that remote work is common, these days.
Ms Barnard indicated that the Department is getting itself ready for the training of councillors to provide capacity building. It has embarked on a research project to see what worked and what failed within the last five years. One university has proposed to the Department how the material should look like and how to approach the training. Some of the things to include in the material are that decisions and role-play have to be practical so that councillors can get practical information; and provide education so that councillors can either have NQF 7 or 8 qualifications after 5 years. This would focus on leadership, ethics, personal development, etc. The Department is trying to secure an external service provider. The summer school would kick-off after the elections in 2022 and, thereafter, start with the NQF qualification.
Mr Paulse added that this would give the requisite quality of councillors – those who know the difference between activism and what to be a councillor means; good governance decision-making, etc – so that they take forward in the next five years.
Mr Van der Westhuizen asked if the IT tender specifications are extended every year because the industry moves fast every year, and asked the Committee to be assured the SETA contract specifications are relevant at the time of purchase.
Ms Sewlall-Singh said she could not provide assurance on that because they cannot deviate from the specifications. When the Department procures, it uses the provincial government procurement standards.
The Chairperson asked the Committee to be enlightened about the collaboration project with Eskom, and asked if people are benefiting from it and when is it planned to be rolled-out and completed.
Mr Marius Brand, Director: Municipal Infrastructure, Western Cape Department of Local Government, said that the project has been piloted at the Breede River Valley, having started in September 2016. Eskom is still in a crisis of rolling it out in the De Doorns area. The project is wholly funded by Eskom. The Department is still in contact with Eskom on how it would be rolled out in other areas, but it all depends on the budget implications, seeing that Eskom is financing it.
The Committee congratulated the Department for achieving eight consecutive clean audit reports. It was further resolved that the Department should brief the Committee on the agri-collaboration project with Eskom in a form of a report. It must also submit a written report on its involvement in Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) funding to municipalities, seeing that there is a disjuncture between the Human Settlements and other departments. Lastly, the Committee should request, from the Department, the entrepreneurial report on R50m support after it has been presented to cabinet.
Consideration and adoption of meeting minutes: 15 June 2021
The Chairperson took the Members through the document, page by page.
Ms Maseko moved for the adoption of the document.
Mr Van der Westhuizen seconded the motion.
The minutes were adopted with no amendments.
The meeting was adjourned.
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