Department of Local Government 2022/23 Annual Report

Local Government (WCPP)

16 October 2023
Chairperson: Mr I Sileku (DA)
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Meeting Summary


Department of Local Government

The Standing Committee met to engage on the 2022/23 annual report of the Western Cape Department of Local Government, with the Minister and senior departmental officials providing detailed responses to the Committee’s questions.

The Minister highlighted the impact of load-shedding on municipal revenue, and its detrimental impact on critical infrastructure such as water treatment plants. He referred to the challenges posed by coalitions, describing them as a new curveball for the Department, alongside the complexities of managing ward committees. He expressed concern about their impact on service delivery, referring to them as "king-making politics" which, in his view, did not serve the broader community. Legal packaging and addressing these issues presented significant challenges.

The Department stressed the need for collaboration, both vertically among the three spheres of government -- national, provincial, and local -- and horizontally among provincial departments. It was engaged in initiatives to bring the province, national government, and municipalities closer together through mechanisms such as the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) and the integrated management framework.

issues raised included the importance of investment in disaster management, capacity challenges at the local government level, the high vacancy rate at the senior management level, difficulty in attracting suitable candidates for skilled positions, and whether the extensive training programmes offered by the Department were actually achieving the desired results.

Meeting report

Department of Local Government's Annual Report 2022/23

Minister's overview

Mr Anton Bredell, Western Cape Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, said that he served as a Member of the Executive Council (MEC) responsible for local management and government planning. He introduced the 2022/23 Annual Report of the Western Cape Department of Local Government, beginning with the challenges of failing critical infrastructure in municipalities due to continuous load-shedding. Addressing the impact on the economy after the COVID-19 pandemic, he emphasised the disastrous consequences of persistent load-shedding.

He highlighted the immense pressure on municipal main revenue, clarifying that the term "revenue" was used instead of "profits." He expressed the need for a study on the profits that municipalities make on electricity and services, advocating for services to pay for themselves without cross-subsidisation.

The Minister stressed the severe impact of load-shedding on municipal services, especially water and wastewater treatment plants. He emphasised the importance of maintaining water services for the dignity and life of households, acknowledging the challenge of going without water.

During this period, the Department realised the importance of partnerships in overcoming challenges. Collaborations throughout the year, including training councillors and opening the minimum competency course to 20 councillors, were seen as beneficial for future democracy.

The Thusong programme, a flagship initiative for government access to communities, was mentioned. Mr Bredell emphasised the lessons learned from a Constitutional Court judgment on public participation, stressing the need for active involvement in public participation processes.

He acknowledged the significance of youth empowerment opportunities created by the Department. Despite occasional debates on agendas, he praised the provincial government's strong interactions with municipalities through forums such as the premier score rating form and Joint District and Metro Approach (JDMA) forums.

He acknowledged the ongoing challenges within the government, indicating a continuous need for a dedicated team to navigate crises. He emphasised the importance of advocating for officials' rightful portions amidst budget cuts, recognising their hard work and success.

HoD's comments

Mr Graham Paulse, Head of the Department (HOD), said they had conducted the year-end review, including minute-taking. He emphasised the significance of the 15-year integrated data and water response plan and their efforts related to energy. Although water and energy fell outside provincial competencies per Schedule 4B and 4IB, their crucial role in oversight, monitoring, and supporting municipalities was notable.

He highlighted the Department's contributions to increasing water and energy resilience in the province, along with their work on disaster resilience. The Minister had addressed various citizen interface programmes and projects aimed at enhancing service delivery for citizens and municipalities. He also acknowledged collaborative efforts with municipalities on integrated development plans (IGRs) and JDMAs to identify catalytic projects, promoting both vertical and horizontal collaboration to minimise overlap and duplication.

In conclusion, congratulations were extended to the Department, particularly the Director of Finance and the entire management team, for achieving a tenth clean audit. The achievements had reached 97% of planned indicators, with the remaining partly achieved due to demand-driven factors.


The Chairperson expressed gratitude to the Department for their opening remarks, acknowledging the culmination of the financial year and the comprehensive report presented to the Standing Committee on Local Government. He outlined the agenda for the day, covering Part A (pages 5 to 22), Part B (pages 23 to 64), and Part D (pages 77 to 116).

Ms M Maseko (DA) indicated a preference for a timely discussion of all the relevant parts, and congratulated the Department on their audit outcome. She recognised the challenges faced by the Department in empowering councils for effective service delivery within municipalities, emphasising the importance of their advice even though enforcement power was limited.

Referring to page 9, where the Minister discussed empowering the public, she sought clarification on the evaluation and success measurement of the civic education project. She connected this inquiry to the Committee's engagement with the Auditor-General (AG), expressing the need to understand the new reporting format and how success in programmes like civic education would be assessed.

Ms Maseko asked about the delayed Sustainable Infrastructure Development and Finance Facility (SIDAFF) project, seeking information on internal compliance processes and details of infrastructure projects funded through SIDAFF.

On page 24, she asked for elaboration on municipalities experiencing instability due to changes in their municipal councils. She wanted to know about the Department's current monitoring and support strategies for these municipalities, particularly focusing on sustaining interventions and innovative approaches for coalition municipalities. She emphasised the need for a visionary and innovative perspective to transform such measures into practical guidance for coalition governments, ensuring ongoing support and preventing community suffering.

The Chairperson addressed the Minister, expressing his emphasis on the capacity of councillors and core members, rather than dwelling on Ms Maseko's comments. Before delving further, he posed a recurring question about the Department's next steps, given their consistent success in compliance, budgeting and performance. He sought the Minister's opinion on what the Department envisioned as its next phase, now that it had established effective internal controls and achieved audit expectations.

The Chairperson acknowledged the importance of training, but highlighted concerns when training failed to yield expected results. He questioned whether the Department believed the training provided to councillors had effectively assisted them in fulfilling their oversight responsibilities and ensuring proactive financial management in municipalities.

Referring to page 25, he inquired about the training frequency for community development workers (CDWs) on gender-based violence (GBV) issues. If a specific number of participants was mentioned, he sought clarification on the measures used to determine that number.

Ms Maseko added a question on the CDWs' march about the involvement of the Department of Social Development (DSD) in organising the event. She stressed the need for interlinking between departments, particularly in supporting initiatives identified by the CDWs. She sought clarity on the sustainability of the programme, questioning whether it was a one-time initiative, or if the Department planned to continue it. If continued, she asked to what extent the Department intended to collaborate with CDWs to ensure the programme's ongoing success.

Minister Bredell began by referring to the national context in which all actions and responses take place. He highlighted the anticipation of severe budget cuts and economic challenges for the country over the next two to three years. He cautioned against unrealistic expectations due to the impending financial constraints, stressing the importance of understanding the pressure on the Department's personnel. He shared the commitment of the Department, exemplified by their early morning start, emphasising their dedication to serving the people.

Expressing concern for personnel across all departments, especially during crises, the Minister acknowledged the valuable contributions of dedicated personnel to the Department's achievements. He urged awareness of the pressures personnel face from the oversight role of the Standing Committee and the Department's perspective.

Minister Bredell commended the director for successfully establishing ward committees, acknowledging the phased nature of such initiatives and the need for patience. He indicated that the focus would shift to strengthening the role of ward committees in public participation, influenced by recent judgments on the Khoisan Bill and constitutional matters.

He maintained his belief in the importance of municipal cycles of councillors' meetings, advocating the integration of ward councillors' meetings with council meetings and executive mayoral meetings. He suggested a seamless flow from one meeting to another, incorporating detailed minutes that address decision-making and action items as essential elements moving forward.

He highlighted the challenges posed by coalitions, describing them as a new curveball for the directorate, alongside the complexities of managing ward committees. While coalitions had been part of their experience, he expressed concern about their impact on service delivery, referring to them as "king-making politics" which, in his view, did not serve the broader community. Legal packaging and addressing these issues presented significant challenges.

Recognising the importance of stable councils and political environments for effective service delivery, the Minister stressed the need to build the capacity of councillors. He noted the abundance of training materials, but emphasised the necessity of streamlining training programmes to have a more significant impact. The decision to open up municipal minimum competency (MMC) training was praised for its forward-looking approach, providing councillors with valuable skills for the future.

While acknowledging the impact of training, he advocated greater independence of internal audit units within municipalities. He argued that independent internal audit units could act as the eyes and ears within municipalities, identifying issues before they escalated, and preventing legal complications associated with late interventions.

He stressed the importance of understanding municipal finance, emphasising the need for a stronger focus on independent internal audit units within municipalities. He expressed his commitment to advocating greater independence, believing it would lead to more effective and timely interventions.

Mr Paulse echoed the Minister's sentiments, and provided additional information on the training initiatives. He said that approximately 20 councillors had undergone the MMC programme, describing it as a fantastic programme that offers insights into how an entire municipality functions. The feedback from participating councillors had been positive, expressing excellence in the training. The success of the pilot had led to a desire to extend the programme to more councillors, and they were exploring options within funding limitations to enrol additional councillors in the future.

Mr Paulse discussed the impact evaluation being conducted on the function of ward committees. The directorate was actively assessing the effectiveness of ward committees, aiming to identify areas of success and improvement. This evaluation would guide future strategies and initiatives in this area.

Mr C Dugmore (ANC) raised a concern about a ruling made by the Chairperson, which restricted virtual participants from asking questions during the meeting. He questioned the basis for this ruling, seeking clarification on the specific rule or provision in the Committee's rules, the constitution, or other legislation that led to this decision.

The Chairperson responded that the ruling had been made to maintain fairness, as there were several requests for links to the meeting, which he had denied. To ensure consistency, he insisted on adhering to the principle that the notice of the meeting was for in-person attendance, and all participants should follow that.

Mr Dugmore acknowledged the ruling, but said that the Chairperson had not provided any authority or reference to the Committee's rules to support this decision. Despite this, he would abide by the ruling.

The Chairperson clarified that the decision had been based on Rule 82.

Ms Maseko added to the discussion, stating that the ruling was also in terms of Rule 92. She suggested that if Mr Dugmore had concerns about the notice of the meeting being in person rather than virtual, he should have raised it earlier through email, not during the interrogation of the annual reports.

Mr Paulse continued by addressing the questions about coalitions. He said that the national government, in collaboration with the Department and the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), was in the process of developing a framework for coalitions. This framework is currently undergoing further consultation.

Regarding the Department's plans, the HOD mentioned a planning session focused on environmental scans, considering the dynamic local environment. He highlighted a shift in the role of the AG, which now collectively holds the Department, Provincial Treasury, and the Department of the Premier (DotP) responsible for municipal service delivery outcomes, rather than focusing solely on regulatory audits.

He discussed the Department's involvement in transversal projects, particularly in the areas of water and energy. Along with the DotP, it played a critical role in these projects. Water was a key focus, considering it as a transversal risk in the province. Additionally, the Department was actively involved in initiatives related to well-being and safety, aligning with the priorities of the Western Cape provincial government.

Another crucial role highlighted was collaboration, both vertically among the three spheres of government --national, provincial, and local -- and horizontally among provincial departments. The Department was engaged in initiatives to bring the province, national government, and municipalities closer together through mechanisms such as the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) and the integrated management framework.

In conclusion, the HOD noted that the Department was stretched beyond its normal legislative mandate, undertaking applied and incidental mandates, which was currently placing strain on the Department's resources.

Mr Heinrich Magerman, Chief Director: Community Development Worker Programme, provided information on the ongoing training on GBV. He said that the training was continuous, and the team consistently shared information to maintain awareness about the real issues surrounding GBV, recognising it as a significant societal problem.

In response to the issue raised about the Worcester awareness campaign, he reported that evidence of attendance was well-documented. The Department used social media platforms, including X (previously known as Twitter), and local newspapers to cover the march. The campaign was prioritised across two regions, involving various dialogues and reaching a substantial number of people.

Regarding the social development aspect, he concurred with Ms Maseko, acknowledging that the DSD was the lead department in addressing GBV. He highlighted the collaborative efforts between the CDW programme, the DSD, and community development practitioners. The partnership extended to various entities, including the South African Police Service (SAPS), correctional services, the Department of Justice, and Thuthuzela Care Centres. The programme initiated a 365-day drive and campaign to ensure sustainability, collaborating with different departments to maintain continuous awareness around GBV.

Mr Magerman emphasised that their approach, as a partnership programme, involved working closely with colleagues in the DSD and other relevant stakeholders to address the multifaceted challenges posed by GBV.

Ms Nozuko Zamxaka, Chief Director: Integrated Service Delivery, provided insights into the sustainability of GBV and civic education initiatives. Regarding GBV awareness during Thusong outreaches, she mentioned ensuring the presence of individuals focused on GBV to keep it on the radar as a key component.

On civic education, she said they assess the integrated development plans (IDPs) to gauge public participation levels. Civic education videos were initially shared with municipalities; now, municipalities conduct outreach activities themselves. They planned to monitor participation levels through IDP assessments and observe the increasing accountability of people holding municipalities, leaders, and ward councillors accountable.

The third component involved a comprehensive assessment of public participation, focusing on the capacity of all 24 local municipalities, zooming into five specific municipalities for a deeper understanding of participation levels, and directly engaging with the public to understand factors influencing participation. The Department aimed to gather insights that would inform support programmes to enhance public participation.

Dr Sandra Greyling, Director: Municipal Support and Capacity Building, said there was a perpetual need for training due to the diverse group of councillors in municipalities. Training had been adapted to focus on knowledge and skills, with the MMC programme providing formal training. The Department collaborates with the government unit to offer hands-on training, like impact training. Despite having 20 intakes for the MMC programme, only 17 councillors remained due to changes and movement within municipalities.

Ms Maseko inquired about the CDW's engagement with the community during events such as public hearings, using legislation as an example. She questioned whether there was a system in place for CDWs to assist the community in understanding the implications of legislation when attending public hearings, and whether this fell within their responsibilities. Regarding GBV, she highlighted its provincial responsibility and its connection to various departments, including social development.

Another question pertained to training initiatives, specifically the Department's collaboration with municipalities and the treasury. She sought clarification on the interpretation of "councillors' training for capacity" within municipalities. She was concerned that the focus might be one-sided, targeting officials rather than councillors. Some municipalities suggested that officials should provide clearer instructions to councillors. The Committee, examining the situation in Beaufort West, had contemplated whether the issue lay with councillors or officials, suggesting a need for municipalities to streamline operations for better collaboration. She also questioned the value of the training, querying whether participants genuinely applied the knowledge, or attended solely for certification.

The Chairperson followed up on the discussion about coalitions. Referring to a recent trip to Durban with Ms Maseko and Mr America, he mentioned a comment from a facilitated session about a specific number of councillors in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) who were unable to read or write. He linked this observation to the Department's monitoring and support initiatives for municipalities, expressing concern about the impact of council members with limited literacy on the functioning of councils. He pondered whether the Department had considered ensuring that individuals running councils possess basic literacy skills to contribute effectively to meetings and decision-making processes. He emphasised that his intention was not to discriminate, but to address a genuine concern.

The Minister addressed the issue, acknowledging its sensitivity, and emphasising the need to understand the country's history. He shared insights from his 25 years in government, noting instances where councillors with limited literacy had proved effective, while individuals with doctorate degrees had faced challenges. He stressed that qualifications alone did not guarantee success or failure as council members. Determining the appropriate level of training poses challenges for the Department, and constitutes an ongoing process.

He highlighted a past initiative at Stellenbosch University -- the Circle of Developments -- aimed at short-term politics study, with five-year contracts allowing entry at any degree stage and exit after four years with a degree. This approach aimed to provide opportunities for individuals to contribute to the private sector, even if they could not re-enter politics.

The Minister underscored the need for political parties to deal with candidate selection. He referred to recent exams and the importance of checks and balances in assembling effective lists for elections. He emphasised the significance of resolving political issues within local government and Parliament to attract competent individuals. He expressed concern about the challenging environment for young officials in certain municipalities, urging politicians to consider the impact of their actions on peoples' lives. He called for a collective effort to build the next generation of municipal workers. He acknowledged the need for debate on various issues, including political involvement in employment matters. He agreed with the Committee that political parties should play a crucial role in addressing these challenges.

Mr Paulse added to the remarks of the Minister and Ms Maseko, stating that the councillors could blame the officials and vice versa. However, they worked with the councillors who were elected. In some cases, the council made poor council decisions, and the officials were blamed when they did not receive advice. There was a dual role responsibility and accountability of councillors to understand the law and how it functioned in the municipality. That was why the Department had undertaken the route of the MMC, because all 18 or 24 modules actually gave councillors an understanding of how a municipality worked and functioned, and an understanding of the law. They would have better future council decisions if they could do more of that. They were training both councillors and officials, and there was a middle management level where they did training to bring the officials to senior management positions. The Department was currently working on improving the quality of council decisions, and that was the work they were currently doing in terms of the counsellors.

For councillors, there were no requirements in terms of qualification or experience. A few years ago, the Department had approached academic institutions to develop a programme with them, to find a way to train certain councillors who did not have a qualification and how to bring them through the system, but at the time, there were inadequate resources for such a programme.

Ms Zamxaka said that on the topic of the CDWs, the Department had partnered with Parliament. They attend Craig (Mitchell's) public participation meetings, as well as Mornay (Pretorius’s) Thusong Programme meetings, and when there is legislation, Parliament calls upon CDWs to assist with mobilisation and getting people to the venue. They had not focused on looking at the actual content in terms of awareness of what was contained in the legislation, but they assisted Parliament as a partner to get people into the venue. They would continue to explore their partnership with Parliament, and would be a partner as and when they required the Department. When they got to the stage where Parliament requests the Department to engage with the content in terms of awareness and spreading information, they would partner with them.

Mr Magerman said that when they received the notification, the purpose of the legislation and related documentation was shared with them. He wanted to use this opportunity to state that the CDW programme was specifically recognised by the current speaker for its role in getting the public involved whenever there were public hearings.

Ms Maseko inquired about the programme activities for the traditional establishment of institutional management, expressing excitement about the topic. She recalled a previous engagement where she had raised concerns about different systems within traditional leadership (Tswana, Zulus and Xhosas) and questioned the Department's research approach to choosing one. She sought clarification on the activities and expenditure related to the programme, aiming to understand the selected system for implementation in the Western Cape.

Ms C Murray (DA) directed her question to page 11, focusing on the Sustainable Infrastructure Development and Financing Facility Programme. She referred to the programme's delay due to internal compliance issues, leading to expenditure in the 2022/23 financial year. She requested an explanation for the delay and detailed information on SIDAFF-funded infrastructure projects.

The Chairperson acknowledged Ms Murray's late arrival, noted that Ms Maseko had already raised a similar question, and expressed his decision not to allow a repetition of the query.

He expressed his interest in gaining more details about the Department's process for selecting municipalities to support impact assessments. What criteria were used for this decision-making? He also wanted insight into the lessons learned, concerns, and exciting aspects based on their assessments and whether they met their targets.

On page 38, the Chairperson inquired about the Department's role in monitoring the recognition of dually elected public representatives in ward committees. He questioned the criteria for determining the functionality of a ward committee, and whether it was linked to its establishment or the efficiency of its meetings. He emphasised the need for clarity on how the Department monitors the recognition and participation of dually elected ward councillors in ward committees, irrespective of political affiliation.

He asked about the Department's role in the Community Work Programme (CWP).

Ms Maseko added questions about the deviation regarding the supervisors' inclusion in the training programme mentioned on page 49. She asked why supervisors had not been included initially, and inquired about the deviation related to disaster management and fire service supervisors, asking why they were not part of the original target.

Mr Paulse explained that the Khoisan legislation had been suspended due to a lack of public participation, but the court had ruled that the process must continue, giving them two years to correct it through the public participation process.

Mr Albert Dlwengu, Director: Policy and Strategic Support, clarified that the recognition of traditional leaders in the province involved a commission that investigated claims and disputes around traditional leadership. A similar approach had been taken for Khoisan leadership, with a commission established for a five-year period ending in August 2026. Currently, the commission handles the recognition process, and applicants must go through the commission for recognition.

He outlined the requirements for recognition, such as a history of self-identification, adherence to distinctive Khoisan customs, and the presence of hereditary or elected Khoisan leadership. The commission conducted investigations to assess these points. While the legislation had been declared invalid, the suspension allowed time for correction, with the validity ending around 29 May 2025. If proper consultation processes were not undertaken by then, the invalidity may come into effect.

Ms Maseko inquired about the traditional programme in the next financial year, and whether it would proceed, considering the invalidity and suspension.

Mr Dlwengu explained that the legislation had been declared invalid, but was suspended for 24 months, allowing the national Department to seek legal opinions on the way forward. During this period, they would continue preparing for the implementation of the programme. Although they were not currently dealing with recognition issues as a province, they maintained regular interactions with the commission to offer necessary support, particularly in raising awareness.

Mr Kamal Makan, Director: Municipal Governance, responded to the question about impacts, explaining that the Committee's criteria were used for assessment. Factors considered included the impact of the chairperson's role, functionality, leadership style, and oversight performance. The monitoring aspect involved assessing concerns raised about a municipality's impact, with a focus on remedial steps related to issues such as expenditure.

Mr Craig Mitchell, Director: Public Participation, addressed the issue of ward committees' functionality. Significant effort had been put into establishing the committees, making the province the first in the country to do so. The second year of the term had experienced relatively few problems with functionality, but challenges arose in the third and fourth years, leading to numerous vacancies.

In terms of monitoring functionality, municipalities submit quarterly reports on ward committees' functionality and public participation. Per the code of conduct, the ward counsellor chairs the committee meetings and is required to hold quarterly community report-back meetings. The Department uses indicators outlined in the ward committee's policy to measure functionality. These include meeting frequency, sector or geographical meetings, and evidence of feedback after meetings. The Department also conducts random visits to ward committee meetings, intervening in areas of concern. Regular meetings with speakers and attendance at SALGA speakers’ forums allow reporting of challenges and intervention before issues escalate.

Mr Colin Deiner, Chief Director: Disaster Management and Fire Brigade Services, provided information on annual training for the wildfire season. They conduct fire safety certificate training, a requirement for individuals working on wildfires in compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Additionally, they offer incident command training for supervisors, which involves practical training on the ground. During the COVID-19 period, face-to-face training was limited, causing a shortfall. The Department addressed this by accommodating additional training courses in response to requests, especially from municipalities appointing seasonal fire-fighters. The instructor-to-student ratio was carefully considered due to the safety nature of the course.

Ms Murray raised a concern during oversight visits about the implementation of the Municipal Standard Chart of Accounts (mSCOA) in struggling municipalities. She inquired about the Department's consideration of mSCOA in assessing municipal functionality and how they planned to address this aspect going forward. She highlighted issues with the systems used for mSCOA compliance and the need to ensure clean audits and accurate revenue tracking. She sought insights and information on the Department's approach to these challenges, particularly in collaboration with the treasury and as a consideration for local government.

Ms Maseko raised concerns about the affordability of municipalities, highlighting that some, such as Mossel Bay, could not afford to be at the same reporting level as others. She inquired about the Department's assistance for municipalities facing financial constraints. She directed a question to the social development sector regarding a diagnostic assessment of the need for social workers. Referring to the last reaction to the demand in 2010, she questioned whether the current workforce was sufficient to address disasters, considering the increased population and various types of disasters occurring due to global warming and human-created factors. She sought insights into the ideal approach to handling disasters at the local government level, and whether the Department had updated its workforce demand, especially in rural areas.

Minister Bredell stressed the need for comprehensive budget allocation, suggesting that a dedicated department for local government could efficiently handle various responsibilities if the entire budget were provided. He emphasised the importance of financial support for disaster management, advocating appropriate investments in equipment and training. He underscored the significance of clear roles for everyone involved, with all departments actively contributing to successful disaster management.

Illustrating his point with an example from De Doorns, he highlighted the challenges of bureaucratic processes in disaster responses. He described a scenario where people in need were cut off, and the process of registering them for aid involved multiple layers of verification, causing delays that could be detrimental in emergencies. Urgency was required in disaster centres, as swift actions were crucial for saving lives.

Acknowledging the progress made in building a robust disaster management system, the Minister maintained that there was still room for improvement. He argued for sustained financial investment, particularly in pre-warning systems, to provide advance notice of impending disasters. He stressed the importance of timely alerts from weather services, enabling the evacuation of vulnerable areas before disasters struck.

The Minister noted the increasing challenges posed by population growth and economic development, especially in low-lying areas, emphasising the ongoing need for investment in disaster management systems.

Mr Deiner highlighted the inherent challenge of never having enough resources for disaster management globally. However, he emphasised the effectiveness of partnerships with other provinces, citing a successful collaboration during a major flood in KZN the previous year. Despite having a core team of around 35 people, the disaster management efforts in the Western Cape involved thousands of individuals, including fire-fighters, the emergency medical service (EMS) personnel and the seabird rescue centre, tailored to the specific needs of each disaster.

He described the meticulous planning involved, employing a force multiplier approach to ensure the necessary personnel were available for different disaster scenarios. Regular meetings, training exercises, and a joint operation centre (JOC) system connected the province with district municipality disaster centres on the same software platform. This allowed for seamless communication and information sharing, which is crucial for early warnings.

He provided an example of a proactive disaster response, where the software system alerted them to an impending flood. They efficiently evacuated specific zones by modelling the affected areas, minimising the overall evacuation scope. Despite these achievements, he acknowledged the challenge posed by declining resources, especially the lack of military and police support, compared to previous years. The primary focus remained on ensuring the effective functioning of the disaster management system in the Western Cape.

Ms Eda Barnard, Chief Director: Municipal Performance Monitoring and Support, clarified that the mSCOA fell under the direct purview of the provincial treasury. However, when providing support to municipalities like Beaufort West, it was crucial to adopt an integrated strategy involving various departments. Despite the mSCOA falling within their domain, the current approach included weekly meetings with the treasury to address specific challenges.

In Beaufort West's case, the challenges extended beyond the mSCOA to broader issues related to the financial system. Problems arise from the inadequate installation of the financial system, insufficient staff training, and subsequent complications in the flow of line items within the mSCOA. While the mSCOA might receive the blame, the core issue lay in systemic problems. As part of their Section 154 support package, the Department had enlisted Mr Gary Birch, Director: Specialised Support, to assist in examining the municipality's contract with the service provider. This collaborative effort involved addressing financial concerns alongside contract management issues, to holistically resolve the problem. The Department was actively engaging with other entities, such as the Department of Environmental Affairs, to collectively find solutions to these challenges.

Mr Mitchell said that the Department's role in the CWP was limited. The CWP was a national programme, and the province's and the Department's primary role was to support the implementation of the programme. The Minister's office often received queries and complaints about issues such as delayed salary payments and co-staff, and a significant portion of their time was spent addressing bottlenecks and ensuring the functionality of local reference committees. They conducted site visits and verifications to ensure that individuals assigned to implement useful work on the sites were present. However, the national level primarily oversees the CWP, and the province's role is confined to these four responsibilities.

Mr Dugmore raised concerns about the Department's oversight function. He sought information on specific examples of investigations conducted by the MEC or HOD within municipalities across the province during the review period. He requested details on which municipalities had been investigated, the provisions of legislation used in these investigations, and the current status of those cases.

He referred to revenue challenges, and mentioned the impact of renewable energy suppliers on municipal revenue. He inquired if the Department had specific projects to investigate how municipalities maximise potential revenue, particularly addressing issues related to absentee landlords who may not be utilising their land.

Mr Dugmore also sought information on water quality issues, asking the Department to provide details on municipalities that were unable to maintain consistent water quality throughout the review year. He specifically mentioned concerns in Matzikama, but wanted to know if other hotspot areas faced challenges in providing clean water.

On page 38, he raised questions about the deviation of over 1 000 opportunities in the CWP. He sought a specific response to understand whether the Department had difficulty finding young people to replace those who took up seasonal opportunities, as indicated in the explanation provided by the Department.

Mr Paulse responded to the decline in revenue due to energy sales, and requested Ms Barnard to provide insights into the Department's actions related to rates.

Minister Bredell expressed his passion about the Department's efforts concerning rates, highlighting annual assessments comparing rates in municipalities. He said that some rates were considered high, and invited elaboration on the revenue enhancement programme implemented in certain municipalities, and its contribution to the rate increases.

Mr Birch provided information on investigations conducted under Section 106 of the Municipal Systems Act during the review period. There were two ongoing investigations, one at Kannaland Municipality, with the report finalised and issued to the municipality in December 2022, and another at Beaufort West Municipality. An investigation was concluded at Matzikama Municipality, with five reports issued in June 2023, and a new investigation was initiated in the same municipality this year. There was also an ongoing investigation at the Central Karoo District Municipality.

He clarified that there was a current ongoing investigation at Knysna Municipality, but it was not under Section 106. Instead, it was being conducted under the code of conduct for councillors. The investigation had been initiated by the provincial Minister to assess the conduct of councillors in the Knysna Municipality.

Ms Barnard addressed two questions related to rates and water quality. She explained that property rates fell under two departments -- her Department, responsible for general evaluation and appeals, and the provincial treasury, which handled the actual rates attached to properties. They worked closely to monitor rates for agriculture, businesses and private properties on an annual basis. The departments also collaborate on assessing amounts assigned for services, like water and electricity.

She highlighted their achievements, such as completing all their tasks before the start of the new financial year. They conducted yearly comparisons of rates for different property types across municipalities. Revenue enhancement projects focused on data cleansing to ensure all properties were included in the general evaluation system and financial system, facilitating accurate billing.

She emphasised their close collaboration on water quality with the Department of Water Affairs. They worked daily on reports like the 'Blue Drop' and 'Green Drop' assessments, which evaluate river water quality and effluent discharge. The Department assists municipalities with action plans to address challenges in maintaining water quality standards. In response to issues in Matzikama Municipality, extensive support had been provided, including funding, engineering assistance, and action plans. Kannaland Municipality had also received immediate funding and support, including a device for daily water testing. Ongoing support was provided in response to emerging challenges.

Mr Mitchell addressed the underperformance in the Community Work Programme, stating that it was a national programme with work opportunities for the province determined at the national level. The underperformance was attributed to community members engaged in seasonal work, leaving the programme when better opportunities arose, leading to decreased compliance with national allocations. Participants in the CWP worked eight days a month, and were paid R120 per day.

Mr Paulse provided additional information, stating that municipal revenue at the end of the financial year had decreased, particularly in electricity sales. The reported revenue from the sale of electricity via municipalities was 94.8% of the budgeted amount, resulting in an underperformance of 5.2%.

Regarding water assessments, the Department conducts biannual assessments to identify risks related to water resilience in the province. They had also developed a 15-year integrated drought and response plan, which helps identify municipalities at risk. Municipalities like Matzikama, Kannaland, Laingsberg and Beaufort West had been identified, and the Department was providing support. In Matzikama, recent water challenges were linked to sabotage, leading to the opening of two cases with the local police, with the Department offering support in addressing the issue.

Mr Dugmore sought clarification from the HOD, stating that he was essentially expressing that the loss of revenue from the sale of electricity could be estimated at R1.3 billion. In response to the municipalities facing water challenges, he understood from the information that Matzikama, Kannaland, Laingsberg and Beaufort West were affected. He inquired if any other municipalities were grappling with issues related to water quality, not availability or drought. He specifically referred to the municipalities' ability to provide clean and safe drinking water, questioning whether these were the only municipalities experiencing problems in the entire province.

Ms Barnard responded that they received detailed information from the Department of Water Affairs, but it was not categorised per municipality in the entire area. They had information pinpointing specific sections or rivers within a particular municipality. For instance, they were aware that Kannaland posed a broader problem, and they possessed detailed information that could be made available. Therefore, it was not a widespread issue like in Beaufort West. Instead, it was isolated to specific areas, and they had the necessary details that could be shared.

Mr Dugmore said that during the engagement, he had observed the concerns of the MEC and HOD regarding coalition issues. He recalled posing a similar question during the last annual report. Acknowledging the ongoing national discussions on instability, he emphasised that the problem was not necessarily related to policy, but rather pertains to coalitions around positions. He pointed out that based on national legislation, each province had the flexibility to determine the applicable model. He mentioned that KwaZulu-Natal, for example, had opted for a "broadly mayoral committees," where councillors were represented based on the proportional support of their parties. In contrast, in his province and several others, the executive mayor model was in place.

He acknowledged the varying arguments for and against these models, and expressed his interest in understanding the MEC's or HOD's perspective on the matter. He inquired whether the MEC's political party had a stance on the current situation in the province, where there was a sense of "king-making" by political entities. He asked whether the Department had conducted any research on alternative models, such as the "mayoral committee model," and if there were ideas on addressing issues like the unfair representation of parties with significant influence, despite minimal voter support. He also noted that SALGA had issued a position paper on coalition issues.

The Chairperson appreciated Mr Dugmore's question, and reminded the Minister that he was not obligated to provide political opinions. Instead, he should focus on presenting facts as an executive responsible for local authorities in the province.

Minister Bredell expressed his hope that major political parties would internally grapple with and debate the issue, striving to find the best model to serve the people. While he acknowledged having personal opinions, he highlighted the lack of clear answers from his current perspective. The Department visited KZN to assess the impacts of the mayoral committee system versus the executive committee system. He commented that regardless of the system in place, there were common issues such as breaking quorums, non-attendance at meetings, and a lack of focus on government delivery. He emphasised the need for an ongoing open debate to establish a more stable political model that would, in turn, stabilise administration.

He suggested that part of the conversation should include the consideration of by-elections, questioning whether the current state of the economy and instability could afford frequent by-elections, which sometimes led to power shifts in municipalities. He advocated a system where a governing body served for five years, while another acted as opposition, collectively playing both roles to better serve the public. He emphasised the importance of debating and considering not only coalitions, but also the entire by-election system.

Mr Paulse said they currently had a mayoral system, while some other provinces, including KZN, employed an executive committee system. The Department had engaged with KZN to understand their system and found that both systems faced similar challenges. Despite proportional representation in the committee system, certain councillors' non-participation could hinder the consideration and recommendation of items to the council, posing challenges to the functioning of the council. On a national level, continuous discussions were ongoing about the benefits and challenges of the executive committees and mayoral committee systems. The province had considered making recommendations on the committee system, but had not reached a consensus, engaging in discussions with the Minister on the pros and cons of each approach.

Mr Dugmore raised several concerns and questions related to the CDW operational support grants, the Thusong centre grants, service delivery and capacity building grants, the water resilience grant, and the load-shedding relief grant. He sought clarification on the spending patterns of municipalities and the reasons behind rollovers. He also inquired about the policies governing rollovers and the timing of fund transfers.

Ms Maseko expressed concerns about unspent allocations affecting service delivery, and questioned the basis for grant allocations.

In response, the Department provided explanations and insights into the issues raised. Regarding the CDW operational support grants, it acknowledged that some municipalities had not spent the allocated funds by the specified deadline.

Mr Dugmore specifically mentioned Langeberg and inquired about the spending status of Cederberg and Oudtshoorn concerning the Thusong centre grants. The Department clarified that Cederberg had indicated the funds would be spent by 30 June, and Oudtshoorn had initiated the spending process, with plans to apply for rollover.

On the service delivery and capacity building grant, Mr Dugmore questioned the delays in supply chain and management processes, leading to rollovers. He sought an explanation for this, and asked if municipalities could start the procurement process earlier. The Department did not provide a direct response to this part of the query.

Mr Dugmore noted the need for Cederberg to apply for a rollover of the water resilience grant, despite the initial allocation. For the load-shedding relief grant, he observed that only Bergrivier and Matzikama had spent a significant portion of their allocation, and questioned the reasons behind this discrepancy.

Ms Maseko suggested that late transfers might contribute to municipalities not spending the funds by the time of their annual reports.

She raised a broader concern about unspent allocations affecting service delivery, and questioned the basis for grant allocations. She inquired about the commitment of unspent funds to business plans, and sought clarification on what services might be impacted by unspent money.

The Chairperson asked about the operational grant for community workers (CWs) at the local municipality level. He expressed concern about ensuring that the allocated grant was used for its intended purpose, citing instances where the funds were potentially misused. He recounted experiences where municipalities had used the grant for purposes unrelated to community work, such as branding and the distribution of sanitary towels managed from a politician's office, with community workers simply asked to participate in handovers.

He requested a synopsis of how municipalities typically spend the operational grant for community workers. Stressing the need for mechanisms to guarantee that when a grant was disbursed, it was used for its designated purpose, addressing the challenges faced on the ground.

Mr Magerman highlighted the significance of the terminology used in the operational support grant, emphasising the value the Department received from municipalities. He specifically mentioned the grant's role in covering hosting costs, where municipalities provide physical offices, since the government did not have a dedicated office for the Department of Local Government. This partnership was seen as testimony to a positive collaboration with mutual benefits.

This province had a unique model where they contributed to municipalities for hosting costs -- approximately R8 000 per community development worker. He suggested documenting this successful model in a book after his retirement, highlighting the cost savings compared to renting buildings.

He addressed Ms Maseko's question about the Department's business plans, stating that the committees occurred at various levels for monitoring. The spending was not a one-size-fits-all approach, and each municipality, depending on its constraints, had dedicated municipal officials. The framework conditions guided spending, and active officials at different levels were involved in oversight.

One challenge mentioned was the misalignment of financial years between the province and the municipalities. The provincial financial year ended on 31 March, while municipalities had an additional three months to spend the money. Despite this, efforts had been made to ensure that everyone reached 100% expenditure by the end of the financial year, as indicated by the rollover applications.

Mr Magerman noted the importance of returning unspent funds, and municipalities complied with this rule. He gave an example of the City of Cape Town, where around R1 million had been transferred for projects identified by CDWs. Project plans were attached to these funds, and there was active oversight from a member of the mayoral committee. An example was provided of a project starting with sanitary towels, but had evolved into a broader initiative focused on women's and girls' dignity, addressing challenges faced by female learners who could not afford the necessary sanitary products. This showcased a broader effort to restore dignity within communities.

The Chairperson expressed concern about instances where community workers were involved in projects, but the captions attributed the distribution of items, such as sanitary towels, to the office of the speaker. He raised this issue to sensitise the Department to such occurrences.

Ms Maseko sought clarity on interpreting the provided information, emphasising the importance of ensuring that the explanations aligned with the actual projects. She noted differences in expenditure between municipalities, and suggested engaging with municipalities from the CDW side to understand the reasons for underperformance, asking why certain planned activities were not happening. She recommended addressing challenges in the new financial year to ensure better alignment between allocation and delivery, especially for demand-driven programmes like CDWs.

The Chairperson echoed Ms Maseko's concerns, and suggested obtaining updates from municipalities to assess whether they kept their commitments to spend by June 2023. He emphasised the need for reports from municipalities, particularly those where the financial year had already passed. He urged the Department to provide this information, as it would proactively address questions related to the grants.

Mr Mornay Pretorius, Director: Service Delivery Integration, provided updates on the two municipalities mentioned. For Cederberg, although the report indicated that they had not spent their money by the end of their financial year, he confirmed that they had since spent all their allocated funds, eliminating the need for a rollover. The Department had worked with both municipalities to transform existing municipality buildings into satellite Thusong centres.

In Cederberg, the satellite centre had been established in Lamberts Bay. They had undertaken improvements, such as fixing windows, to make it more habitable. As the Department did not have the financial capacity for large centres, they focused on refurbishing and building smaller satellite centres.

For Oudtshoorn, the satellite centre had been established in Dysselsdorp. Although there had been some delays, not only in the municipality's supply process but also in the agreement process due to efforts to move the E-centre into the new facility, the delays had been addressed. The arrangement between the centre and the municipality had faced initial challenges with the response to the advert, leading to a re-advertisement. Despite these delays, they were on track. They had applied for a rollover, which was approved, and were monitoring progress through site visits and quarterly reports. The Department was optimistic that the funds would be spent according to the transfer payment agreement and within the permitted time frame.

Ms Zamxaka provided insights into the funding and operational aspects of the CDW programme. She explained that the funding for the programme was typically transferred between October and December each year. This delay was attributed to the contracting process, as municipalities had to submit a transfer payment agreement, along with a business plan and associated documents. These documents had to undergo vetting by legal services before the transfer could commence. This process often led to transfers occurring between October and December, after which the municipalities could start spending the funds. A portion of the funding went towards operational costs, including hosting CDWs at a venue. Municipalities could not afford the full hosting costs, so they contributed to covering these expenses. The chief financial officer (CFO) of a municipality had to sign off on the expenditure, and her team worked with dedicated officials to ensure regular reviews of expenditure. Delays may occur when funding is spent through a line item allocation.

In terms of CDW funding, approximately 24 or 25 municipalities received transfers, and about 14 or 15 of them were able to spend their funding. The Department had received nine rollover applications, and one municipality needed to pay back R2 500. This suggested that the funds were either spent or overpaid to the municipalities by the end of the financial year. She said a detailed report on actual expenditure could be provided.

Ms Zamxaka explained that municipalities could apply for a rollover only once. Provincial treasury issues a circular during the rollover period, outlining the process for municipalities to apply. The circular makes it clear that a municipality cannot receive approval for a rollover on top of an existing rollover. If a municipality has not spent the allocated funds, whether due to not apportioning them to various costs or not spending them at all, they were required to pay the unspent funds back to the Department.

Mr Paulse said that the load-shedding grant amounted to approximately R89 million. In response to challenges faced by municipalities during November and December, particularly related to water treatment and wastewater treatment works, the Department and the Minister addressed the urgent need. An influx of visitors during that time had increased the demand for the capacity of these treatment works. To address the situation, the Minister approached Finance Minister Mireille Wenger, requesting the release of R89 million from the provincial revenue reserve fund under Section 25 of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). This emergency response aimed to mitigate the impact of load-shedding on waste treatment works. The request had been approved in January.

Subsequent work with municipalities involved identifying specifications, conditions of transfers, and business plans. Upon final approval, the Minister requested the transfer of funds to municipalities. Under Section 25, this transfer was not covered in the main budget or the adjustment budget process. The funds had then been used to purchase and install generators. While some generators could be bought off the shelf, most were based on specifications and needed to be ordered and manufactured accordingly. Additionally, installation processes, including preparing concrete plinths for larger generators, were part of the overall process.

He highlighted that monthly reports on the utilisation of the load-shedding grant were required by Cabinet, detailing where the funds had been allocated. Most municipalities had spent the money, and some had applied for rollovers based on commitments and orders placed, pending approval of the rollovers.

Ms Barnard confirmed that expenditure for the generators was at 58% as of the end of September, which was approximately equal to R52 million of the total amount. This information was reported to the Cabinet monthly. A grant committee had been established that included all three chief directorates. Each project seeking funding, or representing a municipality, was assigned a project manager. These project managers took ownership of their responsibilities both within the committee, and back in the municipality. Communication channels were established between the two project managers, despite the responsibility lying between the two accounting officers. This ensured that the project managers stayed engaged with the projects, visited them regularly, and received quarterly reports for the order processes.

Ms Barnard acknowledged that the timing became awkward due to the rollover processes. After transferring the funding, there was a period of two to three months where activities needed to be put on hold until the rollover was approved. Many projects started and stopped during this period, waiting for written approval from the treasury.

The progress was tracked monthly, allowing them to see which projects were moving forward and which were not. The ownership model helped troubleshoot challenges more efficiently, with project managers dealing with issues promptly. As of today, the status differs from what had been presented in the annual report.

Ms Barnard said that the Cederberg funding was allocated for two specific projects in Lamberts Bay. The municipality had faced legal challenges related to boreholes on a farm, leading them to seek a second water resource. The allocated amount was intended to assist with this situation. The two projects included upgrading the holding area reservoir in Lamberts Bay, and drilling new boreholes. The municipality was waiting for the rollover process to be completed before proceeding with these projects. Quarterly reports on the progress were submitted to the HOD.

Mr Dugmore expressed concern regarding staff terminations, suggesting that the Department aimed to enhance the representativeness of management in alignment with the province's population. However, he was nervous about the terminations, especially in specific categories. On page 98, he noted that there had been advertisements for three salary level 13 positions within six months. However, when examining vacancies per level and the number of vacancies filled in 12 months, there was a notable absence of information. He emphasised the seriousness of the situation, considering the Department's size, and highlighted the failure to fill senior management service (SMS) posts as of 31 March.

Turning to page 100, in section 3.3, he drew attention to issues related to performance awards based on race, gender and disability. He also explored performance awards by salary band, noting a lack of cash bonuses for senior management and critical occupations. He asked whether the absence of performance awards in the past year had contributed to the high-level terminations.

Addressing the reference to labour relations on page 109, section 3.12, he inquired about the timeline for finalising a precautionary suspension mentioned in the report.

In his final set of questions on page 114, Mr Dugmore revisited the issue of consultants. Previously, he had asked about water quality, specifically in municipalities like Matzikama, Kannaland, Beaufort West and Laingsburg. However, he pointed out that the response had included additional municipalities such as Witzenberg, Cape Agulhas, Oudtshoorn, Cederberg, Breede Valley, Hessequa and Prince Albert. He questioned whether the involvement of consultants in ongoing groundwater management, costing nearly R1 million, was related to water quality in all these municipalities. He also inquired about the availability of the report from Zutari (Pty) Ltd, which involved three consultants in the integrated water resource plan.

Ms Murray observed on page 86 that the annual turnover rate by salary band, particularly for highly skilled supervision and productions in levels 6 to 12, was relatively high, ranging from 8.1% to 8.9%. She wanted to know the underlying causes of this turnover.

Moving to page 88, she highlighted that 51.2% of staff leaving the Department did so through resignation. She inquired whether exit interviews were conducted, and sought information on the findings. Specifically, she was interested in understanding why individuals chose to leave or pursue other opportunities. She also raised the question of whether concerns related to the ongoing culture change within the Western Cape government had been identified in the exit interviews, or if any unaddressed issues concerning this culture shift required further clarification.

Ms Murray expressed satisfaction with the information on the total number of employees with disabilities on page 92 of the annual report, considering it indicative of a caring approach. She sought details on the support provided to differently-abled individuals working within the Department.

On page 109, where grievances lodged were discussed, she commended the Department for resolving all six grievances. She expressed interest in the nature of these grievances, how they were escalated -- whether through labour unions or directed at the Minister directly -- and the resolution process employed to address them.

Ms Maseko raised concerns about trauma and counselling in the aftermath of disasters, and noted the existence of a transversal agreement for employee wellness. She sought information on the Department's counselling process, specifically inquiring whether it had its own online form and if employees could call a designated number for counselling. She also questioned whether this information was shared with volunteers who assisted during disasters. If not, she wanted to know the communication process with municipalities, which often coordinated volunteers for disaster response, to ensure that counselling services were available for volunteers when needed.

The Chairperson directed attention to page 83, highlighting two vacant director positions, Director: Integrated Development Planning (IDP), and Director: Disaster Operations. Referring specifically to the vacant Director IDP position throughout 2021/22, he asked about the Department's challenges in finding a competent individual to fill this role. He also wanted to know how the absence of individuals in these director positions, particularly the Director IDP, had impacted the Department's ability to achieve its strategic goals.

Minister Bredell emphasised that the non-filling of any position created pressure on other personnel, underscoring the importance of filling vacancies with the right individuals. Addressing rumours about public servants receiving enormous salaries, he highlighted the unfairness of such generalisations, saying that public servants also faced challenges. He expressed concern about the provincial salary scales not being on a par with municipalities, particularly mentioning that grades 4, 5 and 6 in municipalities, excluding metro areas, offered higher salary scales. He warned that this discrepancy could lead to the loss of personnel, particularly the departure of valuable staff, and deemed it a worrying aspect affecting all departments.

In response to Mr Dugmore's question on page 109, the Minister provided information about a suspension recommended by the Department of the Premier. The suspension lasted 42 days and was lifted after an independent investigation had concluded that there was no merit in the accusation.

Mr Paulse responded to Mr Dugmore's reference to page 93, providing detailed information about the 34 individuals who had exited the Department. The breakdown included:

  • One official who passed away.
  • Fourteen permanent employees who resigned.
  • Ten individuals in contract positions, where contracts were only allowed for a year.
  • Two retirees.
  • One transfer to a statutory body.
  • Four transfers to public service departments.
  • Two promotions.

The HOD expressed particular concern about contract positions at levels 9 to 12, especially for critical roles such as engineers and Geographic Information System (GIS) technologists. Legislation allowed appointments for a year, leading the Department to seek innovative solutions. They had secured funding over three years based on innovation, enabling them to advertise these positions over the three-year period within the framework of a temporary structure.

He highlighted challenges in retaining staff, especially engineers, who were reluctant to leave permanent employment for short-term contracts. The salaries offered and competition from municipalities contributed to this difficulty. He provided examples of staff leaving for higher-paying positions, including a deputy director joining the City of Cape Town, a PhD holder lecturing at the University of Cape Town (UCT), and a committee member moving to the national Parliament.

Some terminations, including one official who had the choice to resign or retire, were influenced by financial considerations. The Department had difficulty retaining staff due to the lack of tools to assess reasons such as salaries, or a desire for higher positions. Municipalities' ability to offer higher salaries posed a challenge, leading to officials leaving the province for other departments. Retaining skills and competence became challenging under these circumstances, despite the Department's desire to do so.

Mr Paulse mentioned page 98's reference to three vacant senior management posts. The first one was the Director: IDP, which became vacant in 2021 and was for a director/senior manager. The second one, the disaster operation post, became vacant when the previous occupant accepted a director's position in the Department of Agriculture. Additionally, there was a one-year contract post at the senior level for the JDMA. However, attracting candidates for a one-year term had been challenging. Therefore, they sought approval from the DotP to create a temporary structure, extending the advertisement period to three years. The Department had agreed, a job description was developed, and the position had been advertised accordingly.

The IDP post had been advertised three times. The initial attempts to fill the position had been unsuccessful, even after resorting to a headhunting process, approaching individuals in other Departments, municipalities, and candidates in different provinces, and the national Department. Despite having two final candidates in the second round of advertisements, the position had remained unfilled due to certain criteria not being met. The post had been advertised again, closing on 9 October, and the Department was currently in the short-listing process, with interviews scheduled for next month. The JDMA post application had also closed, and the short-listing process was underway. Currently, all three positions remain vacant.

Mr Paulse also expressed a desire to address equity concerns at the senior management level. This presented an opportunity to achieve a balance, particularly in terms of gender representation. He had previously discussed this matter with the Councillors, emphasising the goal of increasing female representation at the senior management level.

He addressed Mr Dugmore's inquiry about performance management on page 100. The Cabinet had decided not to provide any performance bonuses -- a stance also adopted nationally, where no performance bonuses were disbursed as part of staff remuneration. Staff members received an annual pay progression, but they were not eligible for performance bonuses. Instead, they qualified for the notch progression, with a maximum period of 24 months on a given level. If they reached the midpoint or maximum scale of their post, they did not qualify for a notch increment. Poor performance did not warrant a notch increase.

The Western Cape government had instituted a non-remunerative policy to address how to incentivise staff in light of the inability to offer financial remuneration. This policy was aligned with the national government's directive on the payment of performance bonuses.

The HOD also provided information on the role of the geohydrologist and the work being conducted in municipalities. The geohydrologist's responsibilities included ensuring accurate obstruction levels, managing underground water systems, and addressing any over or under-obstructions. A presentation had been made on the 15-year drought and response plan, with an offer to make both the presentation and the corresponding report available to the Standing Committee.

Mr Paulse addressed Ms Murray's question on page 86, providing reasons for staff exits, including contract terminations, retirements, and some employees accepting promotional positions elsewhere in the province. The Department was actively engaged in discussions about its culture journey, acknowledging its importance. A programme was in development to implement a culture journey within the organisation, with this initiative being a regular part of the management agenda.

Regarding persons with disabilities, the Department has increased its annual requirement to 2%, and currently, 3.8% of staff members have disabilities. Support was provided to disabled staff members as needed, with an awareness of their unique needs.

In terms of grievances, six had been lodged, all of which had been resolved. These grievances encompassed issues such as supervisor and management conduct, promotion concerns, and performance management.

Disaster management interventions included counselling, trauma debriefing, awareness programmes, managerial consultations, psychosocial development interventions, information, communication, and education coaching, group therapy, and discussions on raising accommodation. The HOD highlighted the importance of debriefing after disasters and suggested Mr Deiner could provide more insights.

He emphasised the significance of the IDP post, which involved both horizontal and vertical planning, collaboration, and building networks. The IDP process influenced ministerial advice and community needs, eventually contributing to the provincial strategic plan. The Department was on the brink of making appointments, considering specific outcomes of the recruitment and selection process. Acting personnel had taken on additional responsibilities in the interim, such as acting in the IDP and disaster relations roles. The Department sought someone capable of managing the unique challenges associated with the IDP position.

Mr Deiner highlighted two key areas of support within disaster management. The first area pertained to their own officials, and the second involved aiding the public. This support extended beyond humanitarian aid to include psychosocial support for individuals who had undergone particularly traumatic incidents. The Department had a contractor, Metropolitan Health, through which individuals could request assistance, and counselling was provided to guide them through the process.

In the realm of disaster management and emergency services, a notable observation has been that individuals often felt more comfortable discussing their experiences with peers and colleagues who had shared the same situation. To address this, two staff members had been trained to conduct debriefings. These debriefings served two purposes. One involved analysing lessons learned, and identifying what went well and what could be improved, which was then incorporated into planning for future operations. The other type of debriefing involved a discussion among staff about the incident, particularly focusing on any specific issues that may have caused distress.

Collaboration with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) was another aspect of their approach. These NGOs not only provide humanitarian aid, but also contribute to psychosocial support efforts. Social development also played a role in offering assistance.

Identification of needs triggered the mobilisation of appropriate resources and personnel to address the situation effectively. This comprehensive approach underscored the importance of both practical and emotional support in the aftermath of disasters.

Mr Marius Brand, Director: Municipal Infrastructure, outlined the responsibilities related to assisting municialities, specifically mentioning the appointment of hydrologists for two primary purposes:

1. Rollout of drought and water resilience plan

The hydrologists played a crucial role in identifying water sources and conducting tests on groundwater quality. This involved checking for elements like high levels of iron or manganese in certain areas, ensuring that these levels were within acceptable limits. The information gathered was then provided to consultants responsible for designing water treatment works. While the hydrologists focus on this aspect, ongoing water quality within the municipality's network was part of their broader water resilience programme. The hydrologists detected any issues in this area. They collaborated with the Department of Water and Sanitation, involving the community and analysing water quality based on the 'blue drop' results.

2. Water use licences compliance

According to water use licences, municipalities were obligated to carry out specific tasks. This included applying for water use licences and ensuring compliance with the stipulations outlined in those licences. For instance, they must guarantee proper and sustainable water abstraction to protect groundwater resources.

Regarding the 15-year plan, Mr Brand mentioned that both the presentation and report were available and could be made accessible as needed. This transparent approach ensured that information regarding the plan was readily available to stakeholders and interested parties.

Ms Maseko sought a follow-up on her previous question about a toll-free number for wellness. She expressed interest in engaging with colleagues or seeking support over the phone, especially when discussing sensitive matters like the HIV and tuberculosis (TB) management programme.

In response, the Minister provided the toll-free number for assistance, which was 080 061 1155. This number was intended to provide support, guidance and assistance to individuals who may be dealing with health-related concerns, including those related to HIV and TB management.

Mr Dugmore inquired about the SMS vacancies, specifying that one was for an IDP manager, another for disaster management, and one for the JDMA. He sought the full names of these positions and the dates when they had initially become vacant.

Ms Zamxaka referred to the passing of the Director: IDP on 9 November 2021, and the Minister noted that the Director: Disaster Operations position became vacant in December 2022.

The Chairperson suggested that the Department email the specific dates for these vacancies. If further details or clarification are needed, it would be advisable for Mr Dugmore to follow up with the Department through the provided channels.

Mr Dugmore expressed concern about the prolonged vacancies, particularly in critical areas such as local economic development and IDP. He suggested that the Committee could assist with headhunting if the Department faced challenges finding suitable candidates. He emphasised that the vacancies had been ongoing for almost two years, and it was crucial to address them.

He also proposed that officials indicate if there were any legislative changes or flexibility needed to make these positions more attractive.

Minister Bredell acknowledged the challenges and highlighted the serious process involved in filling these roles. He acknowledged the importance of quality appointments and expressed his commitment to advocating for fair salaries for officials.

Minister Bredell pointed out that government needed competitive packages to attract qualified individuals, especially considering the competition with the private sector for similar positions. He emphasised the importance of fair compensation to attract professional and qualified individuals to carry out essential roles within the Department.

Mr Dugmore requested information on the officials who had received notch increases in the current year, and the Department agreed to provide more details through a written reply.

Closing remarks

The Chairperson acknowledged the Minister's responsibilities and the challenges associated with municipal actions, and appreciated the gravity of the work carried out by the Department. He extended his best wishes to the Minister for the future, recognising the upcoming end of the term and the likelihood of new individuals joining the Committee next year.

He reassured the officials that, as they continued in their roles, the Committee was there to support and strengthen the Department's efforts. He emphasised that the questions posed by the Committee were not meant to embarrass, but to contribute to improvement.

The meeting was adjourned.


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