Local Government Visits: Committee Report

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LOCAL GOVERNMENT SELECT COMMITTEE
18 October 2004

LOCAL GOVERNMENT VISITS: COMMITTEE REPORT

Chairperson
Mr S Shiceka (ANC)

Documents handed out :
Consolidated Report on Local Government (document Awaited)

SUMMARY
The Committee discussed the research report, the Consolidated Report on Local Government, which looked at the problems faced by local government. The Committee had focussed on powers of municipalities, the delivery of municipal services, the Expanded Public Works Programme, municipal finances, corruption in the tendering system, the local economic development programme and the role of traditional leadership at the local government level. Smaller municipalities had encountered problems in dealing with most of the above issues. In some municipalities, there had been political tensions between parties to such an extent that development was hampered.

MINUTES

Chairperson's summary

The Chairperson reported that both the SA Local Government Association (SALGA) and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) had worked together to table the report. SALGA had offered to assist in information gathering. The questionnaires were sent by SALGA to the different municipalities. He noted that some municipal officials had not consulted with local government political heads. He suggested that in future, political heads should be consulted on issues of Local Government.

Powers and functions
The Chairperson reported that the report had no sequence. Some Mayors in smaller municipalities had not taken the role of mayoral committees seriously. They thought of mayoral committees as advisory bodies although the mayors were supposed to convene mayoral committee meetings all the time. There had been problems regarding the divisions and functions of local and District municipalities. SALGA had to play a role in ensuring that powers and functions were clearly defined.

Delivery of municipal services
Most municipalities had made significant progress in providing basic services which were solid waste, water, sanitation and electricity. Eskom had no uniform policy that applied across municipalities. The Committee had greed that Eskom should provide free basic electricity to those communities where Eskom was the service provider. The Department of Local Government and the Department of Mineral and Energy Affairs had to ensure the implementation of agreements with Eskom.

Municipal finances
The majority of municipalities had not been compliant with the Municipal Finance Management Act of 2004 (MFMA). Municipal Finances were still a huge problem including billing, debt collection, and financial reporting. The tendering process was characterised by allegations of corruption relating to procurement. Tenderers had no appeal mechanism if they suspected foul play. After a brief discussion, the Committee agreed to seek advice of the State Law advisor on anti corruption policy and effective monitoring and evaluation policy. Treasury had to guide municipalities on the management of inherited debt and credit control.

The national policy on credit control had to take cognisance of the position of the indigent. Some form of means test had to be developed to determine each and every household financial situation. Ward Committees and Community Development Workers had to profile their communities because they were working in those communities.

Local economic development
Policies that were developed by most municipalities were not viable. They had no proper business plan. The Committee resolved that all development plans should take into account resources available to that particular area. For example, rural municipalities could utilise agriculture and agribusiness.

Expanded Public Works Programmes
Many municipalities that do not have a tax base had depended on the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG). Consultants had developed their plans for Expanded Public Works Programme. The plans on job creation projects had limited emphasis on skills transfer and were not labour intensive. Stakeholders required training before they could be able to use the system. The report recommended utilisation of SETAs (Sectoral Education and Training Authorities) for training on labour intensive methods. The Department of Public Works had to communicate the objectives of the Expanded Public Works Programme to all relevant stakeholders. Steering Committees had to drive the implementation of the programme.

Capacity Issues
Some municipalities did not have capacity for project and financial management, consequently funds were often rolled over. A discussion ensued about the type of capacity building required, be it financial or institutional capacity. SALGA too had capacity problems especially in poorer provinces. The department had to design capacity development mechanisms.

Traditional leadership and municipalities
Traditional leaders had played an important role in the affairs of municipalities in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal. At certain areas traditional leaders felt neglected, therefore it was recommended that Legislative and Constitutional frameworks had to be amended for formal inclusion of traditional leadership.

Approval of development projects
Many municipalities had experienced unintended delays in the approval of development projects. The delays had often been a result of the Environmental Impact Assessment processes. The Committee resolved to convene a meeting with the Department of Local Government and the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism to look at consequences of environmental laws.

Further recommendations
The elderly were still waiting for long hours to collect their old age pension, some would even wait the whole night to be one of the first recipients. Some members suggested the use of Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) for old age pension collection. A discussion ensued around the issue, and some members suggested use of cash cheques. It had been evident that shopkeepers had charged exorbitant fees when they were cashing the cheques. Elderly people often lived isolated lives, therefore pension collection days had fulfilled the role of social gathering events. The idea of using ATMs would make the elderly crime victims.

Mr A Moseki (ANC) suggested an increase in the number of cars that were responsible for grant distribution and for a general improvement of the payment system. The Committee accepted this as a recommendation. They also agreed that recommended water resources in specific areas should be allocated fairly to all communities.

The Committee Report was approved with the slight changes mentioned above.

The meeting was adjourned

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