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PROVINCIAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
12 October 2004
SA LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION AND COMMISSION FOR THE RIGHTS OF CULTURAL, RELIGIOUS AND LINGUISTIC COMMUNITIES: BRIEFING
Chairperson: Ms N Ntshulana-Bhengu (ANC)
SALGA Annual Report 2003/04 (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
SALGA: Financial Statement 2003/04 PowerPoint presentation
Commission for the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities: Briefing
Commission for the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities: Annual Report 2003/04
The South African Local Government Association (SALGA) briefed the Committee on its Annual Report for 2003/2004. Key challenges, expenditure and progress were noted. The Auditor General had issued an unqualified audit report. Members were mostly concerned with the potential disestablishment of a small number of municipalities and the lack of local government training co-operation between SALGA and the relevant SETA. The Commission for the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities then presented their Annual Report and gave details of the forthcoming National Consultative Conference. Key issues that arose were the previous year’s underspending due to the late establishment of the Commission and its resultant current under-funding to the extent that it required special Treasury permission to roll over funds for its planned National Consultative Conference at the end of the year.
Ms Ntshulana-Bhengu welcomed the new SALGA leadership and said she had been excited by the discussions at the recent SALGA conference. When SALGA had originally presented the Annual Report, it had been to the Portfolio Committee of the second Parliament. They had been asked to re-present the report to allow the Committee to understand the SALGA mandate and challenges and to suggest possible solutions to the challenges. The Committee also had to produce an annual report and an understanding of the financial implications of the SALGA mandate would assist and help with the five year cycle plan. The Committee also had to ensure that there were no financial discrepancies and that mandates were equal to financial allocations.
Mr A Masondo (Chairperson) said that the presentations were based on the Annual Report and Treasury Report presented and adopted at the SALGA conference.
Ms S Sibisi (Acting CEO) emphasised the SALGA vision of ensuring a developmental and co-operative local government system in South Africa that is democratic and provides a better life for all, and ensuring that municipalities are well capacitated, sustainable and delivered high quality services in an equitable, affordable and accessible manner. SALGA was a political organisation. Its mission was to build an integrated and sustainable local government association that acted as the voice of local government in provincial, national, regional and international forums, supported and strengthened the capacity of municipalities and served as a centre for knowledge and information management through dedicated political leadership and the provision of professional, value adding products and services. No comprehensive framework had been established, but this was on track. SALGA committed itself to the Code of Conduct for Councillors and Officials in the Municipal Systems Act and subscribed to the principles of co-operative governance.
In order to foster good governance, SALGA held a National Conference, a National General Council, a National Executive Committee, a National Management Committee and a series of Working Groups. Its key oversight committees were the Audit Committee, Procurement Committee and the Remuneration Committee. Challenges included mandating and feedback, the portfolio system and intergovernmental relations. Initially, SALGA had formulated policy and presented policy guidelines, but this system had been broadened to include training and information sharing, on site support and impact assessments that in turn contributed to policy formation and policy guidelines. Member participation was vital and was being promoted through the Consultative Assembly and the National Municipal Managers Forum. It had been found that information given to municipal representatives was not always getting back to the municipalities and new strategies were being formulated to address this.
SALGA’s strategic objectives included improving its ability to deliver high quality services, increasing the impact and influence of organised local government, increasing the skills base, increasing knowledge sharing, leveraging collective buying power and playing a role at regional and international levels. Key issues faced included poverty, unemployment, urbanisation, service delivery of water, sanitation, electricity, health provision and infrastructure, globalisation and information technology.
The Committee was referred to pages 19 to 49 in the Annual Report for the SALGA business plan. SALGA operated in partnership with the Departments of Provincial and Local Government, Water Affairs and Forestry, Minerals and Energy, Health, the National Treasury, the Education and Training Unit, Provincial Departments of Local Government, the Development Bank of Southern Africa, NER, donor agencies and the private sector. Numerous matters were addressed in terms of governance and international relations, including consultations with Traditional Leaders, Constitutional matters, and intergovernmental relations policy. In terms of human resources development, SALGA dealt with labour relations, skills development, the Local Government and Water SETA (LGWSETA), organisational development, the restructuring of municipalities and institutional issues related to municipal service partnerships.
SALGA had a primary involvement in municipal support and interventions through municipal governance, municipal financial management and administration and municipal human resources administration. Municipal services included poverty alleviation, social and economic development, urban renewal and rural development, integrated development planning, tourism, environmental health and municipal finances. Special projects included projects on gender, HIV and Aids, disability and youth development. Corporate services covered a broad spectrum of areas, including publications, marketing, revenue collection and finance and administration.
Mr T Malaka (Acting Executive Director: Corporate Services) introduced the financial statements for 2003/2004. The statements of SALGA were audited in terms of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and SALGA had obtained an unqualified audit report. The audit opinion showed certain instances of non-compliance with the PFMA and Treasury Regulations. The internal audit function had not compiled a three-year strategic plan and an annual plan for ifs first year of operation as a result of the risk assessments not having been carried out. The deficit for the year amounted to R2 549 043 and the ability to meet future commitments would depend on SALGA’s ability to obtain adequate funding. The internal audit function had only been operational in the last quarter of the year under review and the process was ongoing.
Key income sources for the financial year were given, and key operating expenses identified. These included salaries, provincial costs including salaries and travel costs, and SALGA councillor travel costs and staff, telephone, printing, stationery and conference expenses.
A number of key projects were undertaken during the year, including the establishment of CCRA (Council of Cities and Regions in Africa), the restructuring of the Pension Fund, a tax consultancy service for Councillors, the establishment of a Budget Office and Budget week meetings in all provinces, the employment of consultants to undertake due diligence audits at the provincial offices, the engagement of consultants to devise a business plan for the Municipal Services Interventions Unit, the launch of Knowledge Sharing Programmes (KSP), District Learning Networks and Peer Reviews, the development of an Occupational Health and Safety Policy and the finalisation of the Property Rates Bill and the Municipal Finance Management Act.
SALGA maintained a system of internal control designed to provide reasonable assurance that transactions were properly authorised and assets adequately safeguarded. The Office of the Auditor General reported findings and recommendations to the management of SALGA and corrective actions were taken to address control and deficiencies and improve the systems as identified. The Audit Committee provided oversight to the financial reporting process and internal controls.
Since June 2004, SALGA had held its national conference, elected a new executive committee, drawn up its constitution, formed a single unified organisation for organised local government and reviewed staffing and finance. The financial section required more staff, and SALGA had identified the need to look at its revenue base and find more partnerships.
Mr P Smith (IFP) mentioned the multiplicity of training initiatives and asked the extent to which these were co-ordinated to give maximum value.
Mr M Nonkonyana (ANC) referred to page 7 of the presentation. One of the problems experienced with training was that it was not always the same person who attended the full series of training. This raised a question of the seriousness of commitment to capacitation.
Mr Masondo agreed that the multiplicity of training was not effective and said that initiatives that had not been properly thought through would not help municipalities. Training was often regarded as a soft option for funding and he requested the Committee to ensure that training was streamlined.
Ms Sibisi said that SALGA was working on integrating training programmes and was hoping to get donors and all stakeholders on board.
Ms Ntshulana-Bhengu said that, in August, the Committee had engaged with departments in the governance sector and with academics and looked at training related to adherence to the Batho Pele principle. Senior management seemed to be the focus of most training programmes and officials were not receiving training. She asked SALGA to look into this.
Mr Smith said that he had heard from the LGWSETA that there was a likelihood that there may be a merger of many SETAs into a single public service SETA and asked for SALGA’s response.
Ms Sibisi replied that there had been ongoing discussions about this but she saw it as a long-term objective.
Mr Smith said he understood the rationale behind an intervention unit but said there was again a multiplicity of these units. He asked how they were co-ordinated and who the lead actor was, for example in terms of the Section 129 process. He asked whether there was a reason that the Annual Report mentioned interventions only in some provinces and not across the board. He referred to the Demarcation Board’s report that twelve municipalities were in a very bad state and asked to what extent SALGA had intervened in these municipalities.
Mr Nonkonyana asked whether SALGA’s intervention had been successful and asked for a couple of instances of successful intervention. He asked for comment about political infighting and court actions in disputes. There was also a concern over non-delivery in the Free State and he asked whether there had been any SALGA intervention. Certain factions were using money for point scoring, he alleged.
Mr Masondo replied that SALGA viewed the disestablishment of municipalities as a last resort and that every option should be explored.
Ms Sibisi said that there had been a reasonable spread of interventions across a number of provinces.
Mr G Richards (SALGA: Executive Director Governance and International Relations) said that SALGA did not have executive authority over municipalities and used its influence with them. It was necessary to leverage all available resources, such as the Treasury, provincial departments, the Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG) and SALGA. This had been achieved in the Eastern Cape, where a council had been suspended and an MEC had assumed all executive responsibility and put outside resources in. The intervention had happened at the specific request of the provincial council. SALGA had been represented on the steering committee. It was felt the only way to achieve specific intervention was to leverage all support. As Mr Masondo had indicated, disestablishment was a last resort. The current system of municipalities had only been established in 2000 as a result of a theoretical approach. Some apparently viable areas might never be viable. Where there was potential for viability, SALGA felt that disestablishment should be avoided as it would be disruptive to surrounding municipalities as well.
Mr Smith referred to the previous day’s meeting and said that there was a perception by the National House of Traditional Leaders that SALGA did not want to engage with them, and asked for SALGA’s comment.
Mr Masondo replied that this was inaccurate and that SALGA was committed to engaging with Traditional Leaders.
Ms Ntshulana-Bhengu said that if the National House of Traditional Leaders had that perception, it was necessary to engage with them to change it.
Mr S Mashudulu (ANC) said he understood that SALGA intended to strengthen its operations after the national conference. He believed that the resolutions taken there should be seen as addressing weak points and hoped the new leadership would extract some of the points raised by the Committee to ensure that these were linked to the business plan. He asked how the Committee could ensure that there was a follow-up meeting. SALGA made provision for this but he suggested the Committee nominate the Chairperson’s office to deal with SALGA to address issues, particularly serious issues arising in terms of the Auditor General’s report.
Ms Sibisi replied that SALGA had had unqualified reports for two years, which was excellent. The outstanding issues were operational issues and were being addressed.
Mr Richards said that part of the SALGA mandate was to facilitate intergovernmental relations and he looked forward to engaging with the Committee on an ongoing basis.
Mr Mashudulu said that the Committee should facilitate a meeting of SALGA and the other stakeholders. The LGWSETA had a problem with determining needs and authority. The Chairperson should facilitate the meeting. The SETA had also tabled a very complicated strategic plan that would require SALGA to engage with it. There was a general perception that whenever municipalities were unable to perform, there was no political will. The SETA and SALGA had the way forward, however.
Ms Sibisi said that SALGA had been aware of the issue of strengthening skills development at municipal level but that this represented a culture change. This was an ongoing challenge.
Mr Nonkonyana referred to page 38 of the Annual Report and said that the hubs mentioned were all cities, as were those on page 41 under "Housing". He asked whether there was bias against rural and poorer municipalities.
Ms Sibisi referred to Page 35 of the Report and said that SALGA was working in a number of districts as well.
Ms N Mayathula-Khola (SALGA Executive Committee) reiterated that SALGA was not biased in terms of any of its programmes or leadership. The pilot project reflected in the Report was the result of an exchange programme with the Netherlands. SALGA was very aware of the need to avoid bias.
Ms Ntshulana-Bhengu said that the Committee had heard the previous day that the LGWSETA learnerships were biased towards urban areas. This could not be condoned and it was a challenge to correct the situation.
Mr Nonkonyana referred to the report from the Demarcation Board and asked for SALGA’s comment on the last paragraph on page 43 of the Annual Report. He said this did not give a good picture.
Mr Masondo replied that not all municipalities had the same revenue base and said this was an ongoing problem. Parliament would ensure that this issue remained on the agenda and SALGA relied on the Committee to grapple with the issue of whether some of the poorer municipalities should get resources.
Ms Sibisi said that the paragraph related to a lack of financial management capacity in municipalities. SALGA had embarked on a number of financial management programmes and that it was sometimes an issue of staff rather than skills.
Mr Nonkonyana asked whether consultants were not effectively governing municipalities. It had been mentioned the day before that certain structures of government were using consultants who were in fact former employees. This was a grave concern.
Mr Masondo replied that the issue of consultants was worrying. The delegates at the conference had felt that their use should be limited and they should only be used where it was unavoidable. Elected public representatives should govern.
Ms Ntshulana-Bhengu referred to the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) and said the challenge would be the extent to which SALGA had been monitoring spending patterns and sharing information to ensure that the MIG performed as expected. The only province that appeared to be doing well in terms of the MIG was KwaZulu-Natal and she asked what was being done to ensure the Committee was informed about the expenditure patterns and programmes of MIG. Referring to housing policies, she asked whether the intention was to develop townships or giving real homes to individuals. She mentioned that it was a municipal responsibility to provide and maintain sports facilities and emphasised the importance of sport in the development of the total human being. There was a need to further engage with SALGA and for the Committee to bring together all stakeholders to give them the opportunity to share information and identify areas where each entity was impacting on the others. A strategic plan had to be established and her office would plan a workshop to work on a plan for the next five years.
Commission for the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities briefing
Dr M Guma (Chairperson) said that the issue of cultural, religious and linguistic communities (CRL) was generally a soft issue yet impacted on interpersonal relations, a sense of identity and a sense of belonging. The Commission had been tasked with creating an environment in which all could feel full members of society. The budget had not been generated by the Commission and was not informed by any strategic plan, hence there was a carryover of approximately R5.9 million. From next year, the Commission had engaged with the Treasury to produce an informed budget.
Ms P Madiba (CEO) said that the Commission had been set up in January 2004 and the first three months had been spent setting up basic infrastructure, including office accommodation, defining conditions of employment, business planning, planning for the National Consultative conference, which was a statutory requirement, and the recruitment of key personnel (CEO, CFO and CAO). There had been gross under spending because of lack of basic infrastructure, programme plans and personnel. This had also meant a lack of compliance with PFMA, with no CEO, CFO or systems including an internal audit function.
The Commission’s strategic direction was social transformation to nation building through respect, peace, friendship, humanity and tolerance. The strategic objectives included public education, investigation and dispute resolution, research, efficient and effective administration, recognition and engagement with community councils and CRL communities and report and dialogue. Public education included development of guidelines, publications, reports, brochures and posters. Investigations and dispute resolution involved policy, procedure, regulation, lobbying and awareness. Research was a key area and involved databases, information about specific CRL aspects and issues and media articles, booklets and publications. Efficient and effective administration required adequate infrastructure, policies, regulations and procedures.
Recognition and engagement with community councils was also a statutory requirement and included policy and regulations, advice and co-operation. In terms of report and dialogue, the Commission had identified four key areas, the National Consultative Conference (NCC), a statutory requirement, and national, regional and local conferences. The NCC had been arranged for 29 November to 3 December 2004 and would be held in Durban. Its objectives included a debate forum, evaluation of the progress of ten years of democracy and a report on the achievements of the Commission. Recommendations to the Commission would be solicited and priorities identified.
The challenges facing the Commission were diversity and inequality, stereotypes, limited information on the heritage of various communities and limited human resources. The solutions to these challenges involved vigorous, equitable and participative programmes in research, education, dialogue and national building.
Adv T Thipanyane (CAO) said the theme of the NCC was "Unity in Diversity: A Challenge". The total number of delegates that could be accommodated was about six hundred and the Commission was in the process of selecting delegates from communities. The conference had been advertised and delegates invited as per Section 26 of the Act. Delegates had also been invited from the National House of Traditional Leaders.
Mr Smith said the Commission’s name was too long winded and recommended that an amendment be formally mooted or that an abbreviation be found.
Mr Smith said he felt that Civic Education should be included in school curricula and asked if the Commission had engaged with the Department of Education or other Commissions on this.
Mr Mashudulu concurred on the need for education at school level.
Dr Guma said discussions had been held with the Minister of Education. Schools hid behind provincial language policy, and lacked appropriate resources. Section 6(a) of the Constitution specified the official languages but also suggests a spirit of language acquisition. He asked the extent to which the issue of languages approaching extinction was being addressed and said language appreciation was a big challenge. The Commission was also in conversation with a municipality to run a pilot project for a national cultural heritage festival.
Mr Smith said he was concerned the Commission might find itself in turf wars in dispute resolution. He said there was a need to liase in respect of overlaps with other bodies, such as the Human Rights Commission.
Mr Nonkonyana said he saw a possible conflict with other Commissions and asked how these possible conflicts were integrated.
Dr Guma said that the Commission would be attending hearings at the end of October in conjunction with the Human Rights Commission. In addition, the Commission was in conversation with various stakeholders to develop partnerships and was attempting to seek common solutions. It was concerned, for example, that nine of the stadiums for the 2010 World Cup were traditionally rugby stadiums. This was an adverse comment on resource allocation.
Mr Smith said he felt efficient administration was an internal issue and not really a strategic issue and he queried its placing in the list.
Ms Madiba replied that the issue had been placed as it was for the purposes of the briefing, and did not represent its priority. She pointed out that it did impact implementation, however.
Mr Smith referred to engagement with community councils and said this had always been a complex issue. He asked what was involved in identifying these community councils.
Mr Nonkonyana asked how the Commission had decided which communities to invite to the NCC and how it had determined what language was used in which area.
Mr W Doman (DA) asked what precisely was meant by community councils.
Dr Guma said that the law indicated that all community councils had to be invited to the NCC. This posed a problem of recognition.
Mr Smith said the conference would have an effect on the budget. The initial budget figure had been in place because the Bill had had a budget implication when presented. He was concerned that conference expenditure would have a see-saw effect on the budget as the outcome of the conference would determine the year ahead. Mr Smith asked whether the underspent money was forfeit or would be rolled over.
Mr M Swathe (DA) said the budget had originally been too limited because there had been no programme plan or staff. There was now too little money. He asked what the new budget was and what it covered. The Committee needed to know what they were supporting.
Mr Nonkonyana said he understood the non-spending but was concerned. A recent call for Commission support had received a negative response due to lack of funds. The programmes for the year in terms of budget were very important for the Committee to monitor.
Ms Madiba said that although the Commission had spent 50% of their budget by the end of September, they did not have funds for the NCC. They were banking on their submission to have the unspent funds rolled over and would appreciate the Committee’s support on this. The Commission had raised a conservative estimate of R32 million for their next budget, but this had been cut to R15 million in consultation with the DPLG and the Treasury. The Commission hoped that once the budget had been finalised, they would receive the money.
Mr Smith said he was alarmed that there was no money to organise the NCC.
Dr Guma replied that the Commission had been in consultation with the DPLG and National Treasury about a rollover. At the last meeting with the Treasury in August, documents and motivations had been requested and a verbal assurance had been given that the money would be released.
Ms E Ntsowe (CFO) said she had had verbal confirmation from the Treasury the previous day. If the money were not released, the Conference would not be held.
Mr Smith suggested the Commission consider inviting the Committee to the Conference.
Mr Smith said the Commission was the last of the Chapter 9 institutions to be established and there had already been debate that there may be too many Commissions. He felt the challenge for the Commission was to make itself relevant. How would it measure outcomes, he asked.
Mr Mashudulu said there was a need to understand cultures to avoid disputes. He asked how the Commission was preparing for the NCC and suggested a questionnaire that would allow communities to participate via the Commission’s website. It was important to allow ordinary people to contribute. Input was needed from the elderly, for example. He suggested negotiating with the SABC to have a programme in preparation for the NCC. The questionnaire could be extended to MPs and it would assist in future planning.
Mr Nonkonyana asked how many delegates would be attending the NCC and who had convened the communities.
Mr Doman recommended that the number of Ministers invited to address the NCC be limited as they were not necessarily experts.
Dr Guma replied that the invitation would be on SABC and discussions had been held with the National House of Traditional Leaders and all provincial departments to enable them to prepare for it.
Ms Madiba said that the Commission felt that it was important for Ministers to be present for an integrated approach.
Mr Mashudulu asked whether there were any deadlines for the Commission to fully establish itself.
Ms Madiba replied that deadlines had not been finalised because the Commission was still unsure of its funding. She would revert to the Committee on the issue.
Mr Mashudulu said there should be a specific way of dictating what other shareholders should do as this would strengthen research methodology. Learning institutions should also be engaged.
Mr Nonkonyana asked what level of support the Commission had received, particularly from the Afrikaner, Khoi and San communities.
Dr Guma said that the end of October co-operation with the Human Rights Commission would include a visit to a Khoi community.
Ms M Bethlehem (Deputy Chairperson) said that there had been facilitation between two warring San parties and resolution had been achieved.
Mr Nonkonyana asked about the Commission’s relationship with the Pan-South African Language Board (PANSALB).
Ms Madiba said a conscious effort was needed to ensure an integrated approach. PANSALB was a key partner.
Dr Guma said that the speech of the then-Deputy President at the adoption of the Constitution, "I am an African" had redefined who we are as a people and introduced an element of inclusivity.
Ms Ntshulana-Bhengu said the Committee would have to check that the Commission received what it needed and apologised for the short time allocated to their briefing. She assured the Commission that the Committee valued its work and recognised the need for it. It had previously been mostly those communities with resources that were able to preserve their heritage.
The meeting was adjourned.