Intergovernmental Relations Framework Bill: adoption; Redetermination of Boundaries of Cross-Boundary Municipalities Bill: Depar

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LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND ADMINISTRATION SELECT COMMITTEE

LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND ADMINISTRATION SELECT COMMITTEE
14 June 2005
INTERGOVERNMENTAL RELATIONS FRAMEWORK BILL: ADOPTION; REDETERMINATION OF BOUNDARIES OF CROSS-BOUNDARY MUNICIPALITIES BILL: DEPARTMENT BRIEFING

Chairperson: Mr S Shiceka (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Intergovernmental Relations Framework Bill [B3B-2005]
Re-determination of the Boundaries of Cross-Boundary Municipalities Bill [B12-2005]
Department presentation on Cross-boundary Municipalities Bill
Municipal Demarcation Board maps:
Map of Area 1
Map of Area 2
Map of Area 3
Map of Area 4
Map of Area 5
Map of Area 6
Map of Area 7
Map of Area 8
Map of Area 9
Map of Area 10
Committee research briefing

SUMMARY
The Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG) provided clarity on certain concerns raised by Members regarding the Intergovernmental Relations Framework Bill. Members’ questions included the definition of MinMECs within the Bill, continued disputes between provincial governments and local authorities, the status of existing dispute resolution mechanisms and the provision of regular progress reports by the Minister to Parliament. The Bill was unanimously adopted without amendments.

The Department also provided an initial briefing on the Re-determination of the Boundaries of Cross-Boundary Municipalities Bill. Members raised various issues including the possible impact on provincial boundaries, the consultation processes followed, the potential impact on service delivery and the transfer of wards from one municipality to another. The Committee would deliberate on the Bill in consultation with the Department and Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB). The Motion of Desirability was accepted, but the clause-by-clause deliberation would happen at a future meeting.

MINUTES

Intergovernmental Relations Framework Bill
Mr L Mokoena (ANC) reminded Members of a recent meeting with the Department where important issues and questions were raised. The present meeting provided further opportunity for Members to interact with the Department and clarify unresolved issues. For example, the reasons behind the definition of MinMEC structures within the Bill could be explained.

Mr J Le Roux (DA) asked whether the proposed arrangement would not compromise the ability of future provincial and local government structures with opposition party majorities from influencing policy formulation.

The Chairperson noted that the intention of the Bill was to ensure harmony in policy development and implementation within all spheres of government, but asked whether the difference in financial years between provincial and local government would not result in anomalies. A time lag could result in lack of co-ordination. He asked whether the Bill would address the persistent shortcomings regarding dispute resolution between provincial governments and local authorities. Detail was sought on the reporting procedure to be followed by the Minister that would provide progress on the implementation of the Bill.

Mr T Fosi (DPLG Senior Manager: Intergovernmental Relations) responded that MinMECs were already in place and assumed different names. The Bill intended to formalise the structures and referred to them as national intergovernmental forums. The Constitution defined the roles of the three spheres of government and all political parties had to operate within the stipulated framework. Therefore, opposition parties that might occupy a majority position within a municipality would have to produce policy in line with constitutional requirements. Budgetary systems would be aligned by other planning mechanisms, and no hindrance was anticipated by the disparity in financial years between provincial and local government. The Bill would not override existing dispute resolution mechanisms such as Section 139 of the Constitution. Reports from the Minister would be tabled in Parliament from time to time highlighting progress made in the implementation of the legislation. Suitable indicators to measure progress would evolve over time.

Mr Mokoena asserted that disputes within municipalities continued despite the presence of intervention mechanisms such as Section 139. Municipalities would seek interdicts in a court of law to prevent intervention by the relevant provincial government. Chapter 4 of the Bill did not provide substantive proposals to rectify the impasse. A proposed facilitator to attempt initial mediation would lack the necessary powers as granted to a provincial MEC. He asked whether any alternative models could be included in the Bill to provide a realistic solution to the dilemma.

The Chairperson stated that Members had the will to engage in extensive deliberations but they were subject to time constraints as the Bill had been delayed in the National Assembly. This meant the NCOP was under intense pressure to adopt the Bill within set deadlines. He noted inconsistencies in the stipulations of the Bill regarding the establishment of provincial intergovernmental structures where Premiers had to provide final approval while the President did not have a similar responsibility for intergovernmental structures at the national level. The Bill did not provide adequate guidelines on how to resolve disputes arising within established structures. He asked what steps would be followed to resolve disputes after the introduction of court action.

Dr Bouwer (DPLG Legal Advisor) reaffirmed the intention of the Bill to provide framework legislation for the overarching regulation of intergovernmental relations. Clause 36 of the Bill acknowledged the presence of existing dispute resolution regulations and would not override such prescriptions. The Constitution allowed another sphere of government to intervene in an attempt to resolve a dispute where necessary. Other Acts also provided guidelines on the resolution of particular crises within government such as the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA). Any intervention within a municipality had to be conducted in an objective manner that could be challenged in court. The Bill sought to resolve disputes within intergovernmental structures that did not impact on the effectiveness of local government performance such as discussion around procedure.

Mr Fosi stated that Clause 41(2) of the Bill explained the procedure to be followed in the declaration of disputes at the intergovernmental level and Chapter 4 set out the appropriate mechanisms and procedures to be used. The Constitution declared that organs of state should make all reasonable attempts to resolve disputes before the involvement of the courts. The Bill was designed to provide a practical approach to the proliferation of intergovernmental structures in provinces by ensuring that provincial Premiers co-ordinated such structures and confirmed mandates.

The Chairperson reiterated that inconsistencies existed regarding the role of Premiers at the provincial level in approving and coordinating structures as opposed to the role of the President at a national level. Control by political heads should be extended without exception. The NCOP had to focus on provincial and local government issues and Members had to ask pertinent questions and receive satisfactory answers.

Dr Bouwer replied that a political portfolio requirement dictated the alignment between national and provincial government whereas the relationship between provincial and local government focused on each municipality as a separate entity. Municipalities carried out a variety of functions and a different approach to intergovernmental relations applied at the provincial/local level. The focus changed from areas such as portfolios to functional units. Therefore, Ministers would be involved at a national level and Premiers at the provincial level.

The Chairperson added that local government had been democratic for five years which was a shorter period than the other two spheres. The Bill should be regarded as the beginning of a process to further develop local government.

Cllr M Dikoko (SALGA) acknowledged that the issues required further reflection and possible amendment in due course. The President should be informed of intergovernmental structures at the national level. The Bill did not outline how the unilateral establishment of a structure by a group of municipalities would be dealt with. Detail was sought on the scope of the legislation regarding the establishment of a structure between municipalities that existed in different provinces. The Bill should be passed to assist arrangements for local government elections but concerns should be raised at the provincial level on an ongoing basis. The NCOP should not be perceived as a rubberstamp for the National Assembly.

The Chairperson stated that the Premiers provided secretarial and technical support to structures in provinces and such services should be provided by the MECs. The Premiers might not have sufficient capacity to carry out this requirement effectively. Time constraints meant that Members could not engage the issues in an acceptable manner. The Department should declare fundamental concerns in a timeous manner.

Mr Mokoena proposed that reports be compiled by the Committee Secretary and the Parliamentary researcher outlining the questions raised. The Department should return to the Committee in the near future with responses.

The Chairperson read out the Motion of Desirability that was agreed to. The Bill was considered Chapter by Chapter and adopted without amendments.

Re-determination of the Boundaries of Cross-Boundary Municipalities Bill
Adv Kholong (DPLG Executive Manager: Administration) provided an overview of the proposed legislation that sought to authorise the re-determination of municipal boundaries before this year’s local government elections. The background to the Bill and the anomalies caused by inadequate technology for proper demarcation of municipal boundaries was explained. A list of consulted organisations was provided and various recommendations were made.

Discussion
Mr A Moseki (ANC) asserted that the Northern-Cape appeared to be the most affected province in terms of the movement of communities and towns into the North West province. He asked whether the entire Kalahari region would be affected.

The Chairperson stated that the presentation was technical but Members should ask for more detail on proposed changes and the areas that would be affected. Members had to be aware of the potential danger for unrest that accompanied alterations that lacked adequate public consultation. The Department should provide further detail to Members as public representatives and leaders of communities. Members could then relay the information to citizens during constituency visits to allay fears and quell possible unhappiness.

Mr Moseki concurred that the Department should provide greater detail on the areas to be affected and the nature of the alterations.

The Chairperson reminded the Department that Parliament had the assigned power to affect the changes that had been proposed by the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB). Therefore, details had to be forwarded to Members to give meaning to this process.

Mr D Worth (DA) referred to a recent media article where the MDB claimed that the proposals would be automatically processed by Parliament. He asserted that the position of the MDB was presumptuous and questioned whether acceptable levels of consultation had occurred.

Mr Mokoena sought clarity on the exact intention of the legislation and asked whether Members would be authorising the rearrangement of provincial boundaries and the consequent replacement of specific towns and villages. Members needed a practical understanding of the scope of the legislation and the areas to be affected. The role of public participation within the process was a priority for Members and attention should be focused on increasing the intensity of interaction. The Committee merely asked for further detail and meaningful reasons for the proposals to avoid a "blank cheque" scenario.

Adv Kholong referred to a series of maps that had been circulated to Members displaying the proposed adjustments and their effects on affected communities. He emphasised that the Bill did not address the realignment of provincial boundaries but was restricted to the readjustment of cross-boundary municipalities. Requests and proposals for provincial boundary changes would be presented to Members at a later stage. The Bill contained two mechanisms to monitor and check the proposed changes, namely the approval of provincial legislatures and the authorisation of such changes by Parliament.

Dr Bouwer added that the MDB had made the initial realignment proposals but Parliament had to authorise the alterations. The approval of the provincial legislatures and Parliament had to be attained before implementation. The Bill sought to give effect to what the MDB was proposing. The matter was urgent as re-determination had to be finalised before the start of the local government elections.

The Chairperson stated that Members eagerly awaited proposals pertaining to provincial boundary adjustments and adequate time should be accorded Members to deliberate on the proposals.

Cllr Dikoko agreed that Members should focus on the bigger picture and avoid lengthy debate around technical issues. Broad provincial issues such as the provision of services should be concentrated on to prevent possible unrest and discontent. The position of certain communities within particular provinces had to be clarified if doubts existed.

Ms S Loe (DA) referred to certain maps and asked whether some communities had been transferred into a neighboring province as a result of cross boundary re-determination.

Adv Kholong responded that no communities had been placed into another province by the proposed legislation.

Mr Mokoena asked whether the legislation would entail the transfer of areas from one municipality to another.

Adv Kholong responded that the legislation would not adjust outer municipal boundaries but some municipalities would undergo internal alterations due to demographic changes. A formula would be applied that established a ratio of councilors versus people as a norm in order to provide effective service delivery. Therefore, some adjustments would occur within municipal boundaries regarding wards but no municipal boundary changes would occur.

Dr Bouwer added that any change to a municipal boundary would require the requisite checks and balances as provided by provincial legislature approval and authorisation by Parliament.

Mr Mokoena asked whether one village could hypothetically be placed within the jurisdiction of another municipality and reiterated that proper consultation should accompany such a transfer to reduce the likelihood of discontent.

Adv Kholong informed Members that a document of frequently asked questions would be circulated to them in the near future. The Municipal Demarcation Act stipulated that public participation had to precede any decisions made by the MDB. Notices had to be published in the local media and opinions solicited from affected parties before the relevant legislatures could be involved in authorisation. He confirmed that the required processes had been followed in the technical realignment of certain municipalities.

The Chairperson noted that Members had raised valid concerns and acknowledged that the MDB was responsible for proper consultation procedures. The MDB served as an agent of the Department. Members should ensure that the correct processes had been followed before adopting the Bill. The MDB had to improve the consultation aspect and should make more use of Members as public representatives in participating in scheduled events and discussions with affected communities. A programme of engagement should be devised that included Members on a regular basis. Improved communication would enhance the process. Members understood the content of the Bill and its intentions. Further engagement with the MDB would take place to assist oversight.

The Motion of Desirability was adopted. The Bill would be considered on a clause-by-clause basis in due course.

The meeting was adjourned.

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