Western Cape Appropriation Bill: Local Government
Local Government (WCPP)
17 March 2022
Chairperson: Ms L Botha (DA)
The Western Cape Parliament's Standing Committee on Local Government deliberated on and adopted the budget of the Western Cape Department of Local Government for the 2022/23 financial year.
Among issues discussed was the establishment of a provincial house of traditional leaders and the coming into effect of the Traditional and Khoisan Leadership Act.
Members raised concerns about municipal credit control policies and the practice of deducting sums from money paid by residents for electricity because they owed other debts. They asked about the creation of an extra two mayoral committee seats in the Matzikama Municipality and whether the councillors concerned had repaid the extra money they received. Questions were raised about the fact that the DA had appointed two of its members as chairpersons of municipal public accounts committees instead of giving the positions to members of opposition parties. The Department was asked why the City of Cape Town Metro was given various financial grants that were not allocated to non-metro municipalities.
The Committee adopted its Report on Budget Vote 14 with the ANC Members recording their opposition.
Opening remarks by the Western Cape Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Mr Anton Bredell, and the Head of the Department of Local Government, Mr Graham Paulse
Minister Bredell said the local government budget reflected policy interventions in support of provincial strategic plans. There were new challenges to address. The Traditional and Khoisan Leadership Act 3 of 2019 had come into effect on 1 April 2021. The Premier had assigned responsibility for implementing its provisions to the Minister of Local Government. This meant that the Department would develop a policy and provincial legislation.
The key focus of the Department over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) would be to use its constrained budget for maximum impact. The Department would continue to invest in interventions to improve service delivery and governance. It would provide project management support and finance for sustainable infrastructure development. It would strengthen fire and rescue services. Funding had been earmarked for all these activities.
Mr Graham Paulse, HOD, Western Cape Department of Local Government, stated that, because of a changing economic environment, the budget was looking at increased efficiency in carrying out its mandates. The Department would continue to support municipalities. Through the Joint District and Metro Approach (JDMA) Implementation Plan, the Department was trying to collaborate with other spheres of government and other stakeholders. The Traditional and Khoisan Leadership Act needed to be implemented together with an awareness campaign. A commission had been established, and the Department had to increase its capacity to roll out the Act.
Mr C Dugmore (ANC) asked if the Minister supported the establishment of a provincial house of traditional leaders. He asked the Department to outline what it wanted to achieve. If the Minister was not in favour of it, he should give reasons. He wanted to know the view of the Department regarding municipalities implementing credit control policies. Sometimes when people bought electricity, some of their money was deducted because they owed money to the municipality.
Minister Bredell said the Department believed in the Constitution of the country. It supported the process for people to be able to practice their culture. At national level, a commission had been established to look into the traditional leadership matter. The Department would work with the Committee on this journey.
On the issue of credit controls, he said municipalities had equitable share policies to support indigent households. The credit control policy was for those who could afford to pay but chose not to.
Mr P Marran (ANC) wanted to understand if the whole province supported the Joint District Model that the Minister was supporting. He asked whether the Minister had started the process of initiating policy and legislation in terms of the Traditional and Khoisan Leadership Act. He asked if an investigation into credit control policies had been finalised and whether the Department supported this move.
Mr Paulse replied that the Department had done a comparative analysis of policies at various municipalities. Work had been done to understand the package of services provided by municipalities. A study had also been done on the financial resilience of municipalities to the COVID-19 pandemic, because many people had lost their jobs. A comparison of the various credit policies had not been finalised. The aim was to make things easier for citizens while looking at the sustainability of the municipality at the same time.
Concerning Khoisan affairs, the Department of the Premier would do a gap analysis of national policy and provincial legislation. The President had appointed a commission that would launch an awareness campaign around the establishment of a house of traditional leaders in the Western Cape and an application by Khoisan people for recognition. The Department had also looked at the functionality of the JDMA in the province.
Ms M Maseko (DA) asked whether the Department had a mechanism to monitor performance indicators for the 18 municipalities governed by coalitions. There was a need to ensure that service delivery to people on the ground was not affected by fights within coalitions.
Minister Bredell said the Department was monitoring coalitions in municipalities. However, this was a different sphere of government and the Department could not just go in there and dictate terms. Some red flags were monitored, such as the money owed to Eskom by municipalities. Eskom had recently won a court case against a municipality and this would put a lot of pressure on many municipalities. The Department had visited four municipalities to see how it could assist them. The Department was concerned about the lack of systems, poor infrastructure and lack of maintenance. Coalitions were not focusing on the right items.
Mr Marran said there seemed to be an issue with two policies, the indigent subsidy and credit control. It appeared that the Minister did not understand the dynamics at play in informal settlements. It was possible for a household receiving an indigent subsidy to use 21 kilolitres of water because of backyarders or people living in wendy houses inside the yard. There was an issue of seasonal workers not qualifying for indigent grants because their income was calculated over a 12 month period.
Minister Bredell said it appeared that Mr Marran did not understand the municipal equitable share policy. Perhaps the Committee should have a workshop on this? The law said households should get five kilolitres of water. If they used more than that, they had to pay. The big threat to municipalities was that middle-income earners were saying they were not going to pay. Systems needed to be in place to maintain a balance. There was a need to enforce discipline and strengthen the hands of the municipalities. The Department worked with the national government on water leaks. Beaufort West had been experiencing a 50 percent water loss
Mr Paulse said 18 municipalities were currently governed by coalitions. They had petitioned the provincial treasury for additional funding. The Department would get R15 million over the MTEF to help capacitate municipalities. Money was allocated for training and piloting projects so that municipal officials could attend Municipal Minimum Competency (MMC) courses. There were 20 modules the councillors had to complete to better understand issues of legislation and functionality. The Department was aware that coalitions were a challenge and that was why it had petitioned the provincial treasury for more funding to ensure stability in these municipalities.
Mr Dugmore said poor households might exceed the limit of five kilolitres because of backyarders. He asked if it was legal for a municipality to make deductions from money meant for electricity if that person had an outstanding municipal bill. What was the legal opinion on this matter?
He asked if the Minister agreed that the position of chairperson of a municipal public accounts committee (MPAC) should be given to an opposition party. In two municipalities – Swartland and Bergrivier – the DA has given these positions to DA members. He also brought to the attention of the Minister two cases involving DA councillors and asked whether these would be investigated. The first concerned Mr Benito Klaasen, a former mayor who had been suspended from practising law, but was now a councillor for the Witzenberg Municipality. He asked if this was not breaching the code of conduct and bringing the municipality into disrepute. Secondly, a DA councillor in Theewaterskloof had been charged with sexual assault. He asked whether the speaker of the municipality needed to investigate this as a breach of the code of conduct.
Minister Bredell said the deductions by municipalities were lawful. On the chairing of MPACs, he said the ANC should lead by example because, in other provinces, it had refused to give the DA MPAC chair positions. He believed that MPAC chair positions should be given to the opposition. On the two matters involving DA councillors, he said believed in the idea of innocent until proven guilty. The speaker was the custodian of the code of conduct. These matters had to do with the code of conduct and should be investigated by the speakers.
Ms N Nkondlo (ANC) wanted to know how the Department had responded to pronouncements on reforms around infrastructure and mobility, and what the implications were for it. She also asked what the role of the Department was in decreasing red tape for small businesses and revising bylaws post-COVID, because the issue of jobs was one of the budget priorities.
Mr Paulse said there was a governance structure in relation to infrastructure. The Local Government Department was included in this structure, along with the departments of human settlements, transport and public works. His Department was included because it represented the interests of the municipalities in infrastructure provision. Discussions concerned budget and policy decisions.
The Department was cooperating with the department of economic development and tourism and municipalities to reduce red tape and create jobs. The matters were discussed in an intergovernmental relations (IGR) forum. The Department recommended that they be raised in district coordinating forms (DCFs) to develop geographic responses because people and districts were different. He also noted that there were bylaws in municipalities that did not enable trade and growth. For example, an application fee of R1 000 was a lot for an informal trader. There should rather be monitoring and regulation of the area in which the informal traders operated.
Mr Paulsen then took the Committee through an infographic presentation of Vote 14: 2022 MTEF
Mr G Bosman (DA) asked what measures were in place to ensure the politicisation of the Community Development Programme (CDP) by political parties did not happen. He wanted to know which municipalities owed Eskom money.
Minister Bredell said the Department would forward a list of municipalities owing Eskom money to the committee. These municipalities were Beaufort West, Cederburg, Matzikama and Kannaland. Figures changed as the municipalities made monthly payments.
Mr Paulse stated that if problems were experienced in the CDP, investigations would be done.
Mr Marran said he understood the indigent policy. Those who used more than the allocated 5 kilolitres of water should pay. But he disagreed with the credit policy, because people could make arrangements with the municipality. He further wanted to know if the Minister was aware of a piece of land that was sold in Malmesbury and why the Minister did not institute an investigation. It was sold to the ACVV organisation even though it was earmarked for spatial development. Also, was the Minister aware of two extra Mayco seats that were created in the Matzikama Municipality? Who would be held accountable to pay back the money?
Minister Bredell said the Hawks were investigating the sale of the piece of land in Swartland Municipality. The matter of the extra seats in Matzikama had been finalised. The affected councillors would pay back the money.
Mr Dugmore asked the Minister about correspondence from the City of Cape Town stating it was not obliged to answer questions from Members of the legislature regarding municipal matters. He asked the Minister for his views and about the legal opinion on this issue. He also asked how many municipalities had adopted audits on land owned by municipalities, the province, and national and public entities. He asked whether the Department supported the adoption of these land audits, and wanted to know whether a template was followed in the adoption of them.
Minister Bredell said a legal opinion would be sent to the Committee about the City of Cape Town matter. A legal opinion had been received and it had then been sent to a senior advocate for another opinion. He said councillors should take responsibility for their actions. He pointed out that the Western Cape was the only province in South Africa implementing the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act (SPLUMA). More details would be sent to the Committee.
Ms Maseko asked about the number of assessments of MPACs conducted in the past financial year.
An official from the Department said the assessments were there to test the impact of MPACs. Councillors needed training to understand the running of the municipality. All municipalities, except Witzenberg, had implemented MPACs.
Mr Marran asked what the Department was going to do about a Witzenberg MPAC. He said the DA was not the only opposition party in municipalities governed by the ANC. The ANC would give the MPAC chair position to the opposition party of its choice. He remarked that the amounts of money owed to Eskom were big. The ANC was in control of some of those municipalities and people wanted to blame the ANC. Some of these municipalities had been in the hands of the DA for a long time, and people must not try to politicise this.
Mr Bosman asked about the extent to which the listed municipalities were taking advantage of the support given by the Department. He asked whether the Department would be involved in the financial recovery of Beaufort West.
Minister Bredell said there was no reason for municipalities not to pay. The Department had made arrangements with municipalities and Eskom, but municipalities did not honour their commitments.
Mr Paulse stated that the Department had provided support to municipalities, especially in Kannaland and Beaufort West. There had been engagements with the provincial treasury and there was an agreement to develop support plans for municipalities that had governance and financial challenges.
Mr Dugmore asked the Department to provide the Committee with a list of all MPAC chair positions and the political parties they represented. He said the two MPAC chair positions under the DA were creating a problem. He asked the Department to provide a list of staff members in the office of the Minister and to indicate the level of appointment of the Minister’s advisor. He stated some budget allocations were not reflected in the Division of Revenue Act (DORA). He asked if the Minister supported a grant providing resources to the City of Cape Town law enforcement which was not provided to other non-metro municipalities. He asked why a few DA-led municipalities like Mossel Bay, Swartland and Cape Town were getting K9 grants, but others were not. Why were only Swartland and Overstrand getting a R4 million grant for law enforcement reaction units? Why was Cape Town City the only one getting a R6 million Integrated Nutrition for Health grant? Why was an AIDS grant given only to Cape Town?
Minister Bredell said all these grants were not under the auspices of the Department. The Department did not interfere in how these grant allocations are made. He said the K9 units worked across the east coast and Garden Route.
Mr Dugmore replied that all these grants went directly to the Department of Local Government. Was the Minister saying his department did not bother to collaborate with sister departments?
Mr Paulse said the list of MPAC chair positions would be sent to the Committee. He pointed out that there was collaboration with the provincial treasury and other departments about transfers to municipalities so that they could discuss these allocations. It should be remembered departments had their own allocation criteria for municipalities.
Ms Maseko enquired whether the Department had a system in place to reduce water losses in some municipalities like Kannaland by employing skilled people. She asked how the Department planned to assist municipalities in future town planning to avoid the crime that was happening in the metro and which was filtering to other municipalities. Cederberg was experiencing deaths in informal settlements every weekend.
Minister Bredell said the Department should get more funding. Infrastructure maintenance and management were proving to be a challenge to most municipalities. The Department did not have the budget to fix these challenges. For instance, the Kannaland Municipality had been given vehicles, but it did not maintain them. It was not the function of the Department to maintain the vehicles. Another problem was poverty. There were gangs in rural towns. Informal settlements did not have sanitary services, hence rubbish was thrown into rivers. The Department was struggling to get good engineers to work on infrastructure maintenance in these municipalities.
Mr Marius Brandt, Director: Municipal Infrastructure, Western Cape Department of Local Government, reported that the Department had done a full diagnosis of water infrastructure and developed management and maintenance plans to fix the challenges. Bi-annual assessments were done. The focus was on municipalities in dire need of maintenance plans and revenue enhancement plans.
Mr Marran stated he was glad to hear about the financial recovery plan in Beaufort West. He asked the Minister to clarify whether the intervention in Kannaland was legal, because it had been indicated that Kannaland was never under administration. He wanted to know when Mr Wessel Roberts was appointed in Kannaland, his earnings, and funds allocated to Kannaland. He said the Committee should get a legal opinion on whether people’s money should be deducted when they bought electricity because of other municipal debts.
Mr Paulse said that when a municipality fell under administration, a financial recovery plan was imposed. In the case of Kannaland, a financial recovery plan was drafted. It was felt by National Treasury and the provincial treasury there was no capacity in that municipality. A court ruled that there should be a financial recovery plan. That had been done for Beaufort West. He said the Department would first look at an internal opinion on the credit control policy and thereafter see if it could get a senior advocate’s opinion.
The Chairperson wanted to know if mayoral committee members were also included in the funding for capacity building and competency training. She asked what lessons had been learnt from the mobile Thusong Centres and what would be provided in terms of services and operating hours going forward. She asked if anything had been done to strengthen criminal investigations and if Eskom debts were part of investigations into municipalities.
Ms Maseko also enquired how problems would be tackled in rural areas because people did not see the province, municipality, social security agency, Home Affairs and so on as separate entities. Communities saw only one place to get assistance.
Ms Nozuko Zamxaka, Chief Director: Integrated Service Delivery, Western Cape Department of Local Government, explained the province had been proactive in training municipal officials to train councillors. The Department purchased material for training and induction of ward committees and Know Your Ward Committee campaigns. The Thusong Centres were an outreach programme. NGOs, the social security agency, and the departments of home affairs and labour were represented in them. They advised municipalities to look for small-scale projects that could be funded by the Department. The Department was always trying to explore ways of moving forward. Farms in rural areas had been targeted as well. In March 2022, the Department started having a discussion with sister departments on financial constraints.
An official from the Department stated there was a small unit within the Department that dealt with investigations. It received funding from the national department. It had professional investigators. Money was ring-fenced for three years. Sixteen investigations had so far been completed.
Mr Dugmore asked if the Minister would be keen on the idea of inviting officials for study groups.
Minister Bredell said there was no problem with officials briefing the caucus, but they must not be part of the discussions.
The Committee adopted resolutions calling for:
A list of all municipalities indebted to Eskom, including monies owed.
Provision of timeframes for the process of establishing a provincial house of traditional leaders.
An update on the financial recovery plan for Beaufort West Municipality.
A list of criminal cases opened against the Beaufort West Municipality, especially by the Green Scorpions and the Hawks.
An update about the Melkfontein trust in Beaufort West.
An update on indigent grants over the last three years to see whether there had been an increase in the number of beneficiaries.
Information on the financial administrator of Kannaland Municipality to see how much he was paid.
A list of all public representatives who were indebted to the municipalities they resided in to see if they had made payment arrangements with their respective municipalities or defaulted.
An invitation to the City of Cape Town and the Department to engage with the Committee before the Committee got a legal opinion on the issue of the City of Cape Town refusing to answer questions from the members of the legislature.
Information about whether the extra councillors in the Matzikama Municipality had paid back the money wrongfully given to them.
All the responses and information to be received by the Committee by end of April 2022
Committee Report on Vote 14
The Chairperson tabled a motion to support or not to support the Vote.
The DA Members supported the Vote.
The ANC expressed a minority view opposing the Vote.
The Chairperson then read the Committee Report on Vote 14: Local Government in the schedule to the Western Cape Appropriation Bill.
The report was adopted.
The meeting was adjourned.
No related documents
Botha, Ms L
Bosman, Mr G
Bredell, Mr A
Dugmore, Mr C
Marran, Mr P
Maseko, Ms M
Nkondlo, Ms ND
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