Maluti-A-Phofung Oversight Visit Report; Committee Report on section 106 forensic investigations in Mpumalanga municipalities

NCOP Cooperative Governance & Traditional Affairs, Water and Sanitation and Human Settlements

23 November 2022
Chairperson: Chairperson: Mr T Dodovu (ANC; North West)
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Meeting Summary

The Select Committee met to consider and adopt its reports on the oversight visit it conducted in the Maluti-A-Phofung Local Municipality (MAPLM) and section 106 forensic investigations in Mpumalanga municipalities

Speaking on the report related to the oversight visit in MAPLM, the Committee raised its concern regarding the fact that despite the introduction of a coalition government, the municipality remained the most unstable municipality in the country. Due to this instability, the Committee has visited the municipality twice in the last three years, which was uncommon.

As a means to address the municipality’s challenges, recommendations six and seven of the report stated that either the municipality or the Free State Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (DCoGTA) should submit a report on the action taken against officials accused of corruption, maladministration and the stealing of municipal properties.

Following the discussions, Members adopted the report.

During its deliberations on the second report, the Committee, after noting that the Section 106 of the Municipal Systems Act (MSA) investigations instituted by the MEC (Member of the Executive Council) of the Mpumalanga DCoGTA into certain municipalities within the province had not brought about reforms, proposed that the Section be sent to the House for amendment. This amendment, Members suggested, should provide timelines as to when an investigation must be concluded; elaborate on how its recommendations must be implemented by municipal councils, and how municipal officials should report to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on progress in that regard.

Despite certain Members’ concerns that some of the recommendations were not harsh enough, the Committee adopted the report.

Meeting report

The Chairperson opened the Select Committee on Traditional Affairs, Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation sat to consider and adopt its reports on its oversight visit to Maluti-A-Phofung Local Municipality (MAPLM) and the section 106 forensic investigations in Mpumalanga municipalities.

The Chairperson asked the Committee Secretary to take the Committee through the first report.

Mr Moss Manele, Committee Secretary, asked if he should take the Committee through the entire report or only the observations made by Members.

The Chairperson noted that Members had received the report beforehand and requested that he only focus on the observations and recommendation sections.

Committee’s report on its oversight visit of MAPLM

Mr Manele took the Committee through the observations it made during the oversight visit to MAPLM.

The Chairperson stated that he was pleased with the report and indicated that the Committee Secretary should present future reports.

Thereafter, he opened the floor for discussion.

Discussion

Mr I Sileku (DA, Western Cape) indicated that he was part of the oversight and asked whether some of the recommendations were still valid because much time had elapsed since the Committee’s oversight visit.

The Chairperson mentioned that the Committee conducted the oversight visit on the 16th of August.

Mr Sileku noted that the report said there was an Acting MM and there was no longer an Acting MM, it means that the recommendations are directed at someone else. He sought clarity if some of the recommendations are valid since it has been more than three months since the oversight.

Ms S Shaikh (ANC, Limpopo) indicated that the report was clear and covered all aspects discussed in the engagements. After that, she requested that the Committee should consider conducting a follow-up visit to the municipality, to especially track the progress of the support initiatives announced by the National and Free State DCoGTAs, for the municipality.

Regarding Mr Sileku’s question, she remarked that when the Committee reviewed its recommendations, it would look into the progress made by the municipality and all other issues raised during the visit. All the issues he raised could be clarified in that process.

Ms C Visser (DA, North West) mentioned she was not part of the oversight but was shocked to see the regression in the municipality. For this reason, she asked what consequence management had been taken against officials in the municipality responsible for the theft and maladministration that has taken place. Accountability must be one of the primary things to focus on in each department.

Mr E Mthethwa (ANC, KZN) agreed that a follow-up oversight visit be conducted and he requested that the proposal be included in the report as a recommendation.

The Chairperson agreed that the report will need to be updated as it has been three months since the Committee’s oversight visit and he proposed that this be done once the municipality submitted all of its progress reports. In addition, he suggested that once the House has adopted the report, the Committee would need to obtain a status quo report from the MEC of the Free State DCoGTA, to ensure that it notes the progress made on the recommendations made.

Both recommendations six and seven stated that the Committee required an updated report on the action taken against officials accused of corruption, maladministration, and the stealing of municipal properties, he indicated. All corrective measures and systems that are planned to be implemented, should form part of the MEC’s report, he stressed.

Despite the introduction of a coalition government, MAPLM remained the most unstable municipality in the country, he said. During its term, the Committee has visited the municipality twice – which was uncommon – as the issues MAPLM faces continue to escalate.

Mr Sileku reminded the Committee that during the oversight visit to MAPLM, the Deputy Minister mentioned that it was possible that the National DCoGTA did not apply its mind when it revoked the Section 139 intervention that had been instituted in the municipality. To ensure better outcomes for those municipalities under administration, he proposed that in the future all three spheres of government and Parliament should engage on how to apply Section 139 interventions.

The Chairperson, following on the proposal, highlighted that it was Parliament’s job to hold all three spheres of government to account and ensure that they comply with their duties. At the same time, Parliament, when criticising the government, must specify which areas need improvement – which the Committee did in its report. For the time being, the Committee would have to await the requested progress reports and after deliberation take a decision on its plan of action.

Thereafter, he requested a mover for the adoption of the report.

Ms Shaikh moved for the adoption of the report, with the proposed amendments.

Mr Mthethwa seconded the mover for the adoption of the report, with the proposed amendments.

The Chairperson indicated that in the absence of an abstention or objection, the report was unanimously adopted by the Committee.

Committee report on forensic investigations conducted in Mpumalanga’s Local Municipalities in terms of Section 106 of the Local Government MSA

Mr Manele indicated this was the first time he was writing a section 106 report. He indicated that the observations and recommendations were grouped together.

Mr Manele took the Committee through the observations and recommendations it made during the oversight visit in Mpumalanga’s local municipalities, in terms of Section 106 of the Local Government MSA.

The Chairperson then opened the floor for discussion.

Discussion

Mr Sileku appreciated the work put in by the support staff to draft the report. Even though he was pleased with most of the recommendations, he felt that some were not harsh enough, for instance, an individual employed as a cashier in one municipality was found to have not met the requirements for the position, yet the report advised that she receive training in order to qualify for the job.

He pointed out that one of the issues with Section 106 of the MSA was that it did not specify the timeframes of when the investigative reports should be submitted; when they should be handed over to the Municipal Council; when the Council should table the report, and when the recommendations should be implemented. This, he stressed, created room for political and administrative officials to delay the implementation of consequence management. As such, he proposed that the Committee deliberate how Section 106 can complement its oversight work.

Referring to the Hawks complaints of being underfunded and lacking capacity, he noted that even though this had been a re-occurring complaint, the Committee did not, during the deliberations on the appropriations, advocate for the agency to receive an increased budget. 

Ms Shaikh felt that the report was well-structured and contained all the relevant issues discussed by the Committee. She recommended that the Select Committee look to strengthen its partnership with the relevant Portfolio Committees in the Legislatures, which will assist it with following up on the implementation of its recommendations.

Mr Mthethwa commended the drafters of the report for their work.

During the oversight visit, the Committee noted that even simple disciplinary cases against officials responsible for irregularities that had taken place were not dealt with by the municipalities, which was concerning, he said. As safety and security remained an issue within Mpumalanga municipalities, he suggested that the report recommend that the Mpumalanga DCoGTA provide a report every two months on the progress of the measures put in place to address this issue.

Ms Visser also commended the drafters of the report for their work.

Noting the Committee’s observations in the report on the lack of accountability amongst accounting officers in the municipalities regarding the blatant corruption and theft, she proposed the use of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act Fraud and Corrupt Activities Act by law enforcement agencies (LEAs) which would ensure that officials who were aware of the irregularities and did not report them to the relevant authorities are held to account. In addition, she believed that such a step would contribute to reducing the current rate of maladministration in municipalities, allowing for service delivery to resume.

The Chairperson reminded the Committee that it was the first time in three years it had taken a targeted oversight visit to Mpumalanga. Subsequently, he explained to Members that Section 106 of the MSA empowered an MEC of a province to appoint an administrator to investigate allegations of corruption, fraud, and malfeasance. It was concerning that there has been an increase in Section 106 reports across the country.

To address the increase, he too advocated for the strengthening of Section 106, and thus proposed that it be sent to the House for amendment. This amendment should provide timelines as to when an investigation must be concluded; elaborate on how its recommendations must be implemented by municipal councils and how municipal officials should report to the NCOP on progress in that regard.

During its oversight visit, the Committee noted that municipalities did not conduct investigations properly, complete others on time, and generally failed to cooperate with LEAs. Another observation made by Members, was that witnesses were reluctant to give statements to LEAs, and others willing to do so, were assassinated. All the Committee’s observations were important and should be taken forward, he added.

All in all, he was pleased by the clear recommendations contained in the report on what measures needed to be taken, to correct the issues faced by the municipalities within the province.

Mr K Motsamai (EFF, Gauteng) felt that the lack of action taken against officials accused of wrongdoing in the municipalities was an indicator of the Mpumalanga Provincial Government’s disregard of Section 106 findings and recommendations. To him, it seemed that LEAs, such as the Hawks and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), were afraid to provide protection to whistle-blowers and witnesses who have been intimidated, particularly in the Mbombela, Dr JS Moroka and Mkhondo Local Municipalities. On this, he recommended that the Committee request a report from the Mpumalanga DCoGTA on the progress made regarding the fraud and corruption cases within the municipalities, as no action had been taken thus far.

The Chairperson proposed that the Committee recommend a review of Section 106 of the MSA and that the LEAs, as well as the other municipalities that were not visited, be called to appear before it, to account for the progress made on the criminal cases involving officials accused of wrongdoing. In addition, he requested that Members decide whether each municipality visited should be called to appear before them, over two days, on the Zoom Platform, or for the Committee to conduct further oversight visits.

One concern noted by the Committee, he pointed out, was the kidnapping of the Nkangala District Municipality and the assassination of a councillor in the Mkhondo Local Municipality during its oversight visits. Both cases related to internal political power struggles as well as politicians fear of the exposure of fraud and corruption.

Thereafter, he requested a mover for the adoption of the report.

Ms M Bartlett (ANC, Northern Cape) moved for the adoption of the report.

Mr Motsamai seconded the adoption of the report.

The Chairperson indicated that in the absence of an abstention or objection, the report was unanimously adopted by the Committee.

The report detailed the progress made by: the LEAs on the cases related to officials accused of irregularities; the provincial administration in implementing measures to address the multiple challenges faced by the municipalities; and the municipalities in implementing reform measures, he said. More information was required so that the Committee could consolidate its information and provide Parliament with a better picture of the situation.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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