South African Local Government Association Annual Report: briefing

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

15 March 2006
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Meeting report

PROVINCIAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

PROVINCIAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
16 March 2006
SOUTH AFRICAN LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION ANNUAL REPORT: BRIEFING

Chairperson: Mr T Tsenoli (ANC)

Documents handed out:
SALGA Presentation
SALGA’s Annual Report: 2004-2005

SUMMARY
The South African Local Government Association presented its strategic plan, which focused on the activities of particular directorates. Strategic objectives and achievements were outlined. SALGA had participated in the formulation of various pieces of legislation, including the Intergovernmental Relations Framework Bill. Executive leadership and ward councillors training programmes would be introduced in due course. Relevant legislation had been adapted for dissemination to councillors. Integrated Development Planning and Local Economic Development were high on the municipal agenda. SALGA would attempt to reduce unfunded mandates.

Members asked various questions including on the need to reduce the wage gap between full-time and part-time councillors, the provision of free basic services in all regions, the percentage of the SALGA budget used for remuneration, the need to improve relations between municipalities and traditional leaders, steps to improve housing delivery, the dominance of foreigners in local economic initiatives, the improvement of municipal facilities for the disabled and the logic behind standardised bylaws.

MINUTES
South African Local Government Association presentation

Ms H Jenkins (SALGA Deputy-Chairperson) referred to the newly-appointed leadership of SALGA and the intention to facilitate meaningful service delivery. An assembly of national members was held twice a year and the national executive committee met on a monthly basis. Governance processes within the organization were strengthened. A memorandum of understanding was in place with provincial structures.

Mr S Wasa (Executive-Director: Finance and Corporate Services) presented a summary of priorities for the year. Executive leadership programmes would now be implemented following the local government elections. Information was conveyed on the various SALGA directorates. The strategic objectives, focus areas and achievements of each directorate were listed. SALGA participated in the formulation of the Intergovernmental Relations Framework Bill. The Property Rates Act and the Municipal Finance Management Act were simplified and explained to councillors. A study was commissioned on the problem of unfounded mandates. Detail was provided on revenue generation and collection.

Discussion
Ms M Gumede (ANC) noted that SALGA had approached three provinces regarding traditional leadership and asked whether the outstanding provinces would also be included in initiatives in due course. She referred to the wage gap between part-time and full-time councilors and sought clarity on plans to reduce the difference. She remarked that SALGA had to visit outlying areas to hear complaints and criticisms first-hand from councillors, and asked whether SALGA members knew the association’s constitution.

Mr M Swathe (DA) asked whether free basic energy would be provided in all Metros and rural areas.

Mr L Modisenyane (ANC) asked what percentage of the SALGA budget was used for remuneration of employees. Clarity was sought on the Auditor-General’s disclaimer of the previous financial year.

Mr M Diko (UDM) asked how working relations between traditional leaders and municipalities could be improved. Little consultation existed between local government and traditional leaders regarding development projects. Outsiders tended to dominate local economic development initiatives in small towns and steps should be taken to remedy this anomaly. Housing delivery remained a problem area and the process had to be improved to reduce tension within the communities.

Mr M Lekgoro (ANC) recommended that full-time councillors be appointed as part-time councillors were unable to address all development and other priorities due to inadequate timeframes.

Dr M Khoza (CEO) stated that the percentage of salaries in relation to the budget stood at 31% and was below the norm of 35%. The disclaimer from the Auditor-General was due to new accounting requirements as SALGA would now be audited together with local government and related associations. Previously, SALGA had been audited by private companies. Internal controls and policies had been standardised. Steps would be taken to prevent similar disclaimers in future. A new audit committee was in place, which provided independent reports. The membership of SALGA was confined to municipalities. Nine provincial offices were in place that advised local government on relevant issues. The Minister retained the prerogative with regard to salary levels and SALGA made regular submissions on the matter. A recommendation had been made to the Minister to dramatically increase remuneration levels for rural councillors.

SALGA wanted to see full-time councillors appointed in rural areas to enable devotion to development and achieve better results. The low level of resource generation within rural municipalities made additional salaries even more problematic. National Treasury and the Department had been lobbied to review the Division of Revenue Bill and discourage part-time councillors. Sound candidates should be appointed to drive development on a full-time basis. The traditional leadership system should be accepted into the local government process in a more meaningful manner. The two models of elected officials versus traditional leaders had to be reconciled. KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga would be approached during the year in terms of traditional leadership issues. Local economic development should benefit local communities and facilitate local monetary circulation. Municipalities had to find a balance between encouraging local economic activity while also attracting outside investment to drive growth.

Corruption did occur in terms of housing lists but generally frustration levels rose due to anxiety when others in the community received houses. Ward councillors would be trained to research community needs and propose development projects in council meetings. A new policy on language was being introduced to allow councillors to make more use of their first languages to facilitate higher levels of understanding.

Mr M Phadagi (ANC) referred to the dominance of foreign businesses in the Cape Town city centre and asked how more local people could be empowered to create business opportunities. Most councilors in rural areas were indigent themselves and could not be expected to provide sound advice to others on job creation. The dominance of foreigners and the existence of separate economies contributed to growing apathy amongst local youth. Municipalities should participate in the campaign to entrench a culture of entrepreneurial activity in local communities.

Ms T Nwamitwa-Shilubane (ANC) declared that SALGA should encourage municipalities to put more disability-friendly facilities in place. Disabled persons should enjoy greater prominence in councils to promote relevant policy.

Ms Gumede commended the initiative to introduce a new language policy and stated that it would assist service delivery. Local economic development projects had to include campaigns to encourage creativity and productivity amongst the youth.

Adv S Holomisa (ANC) asked how free basic services could be provided in areas with limited resources, such as regular drought or lack of electricity infrastructure. Alternative forms of energy would have to be arranged. Regular supplies of water should be provided in all areas. The promotion of meetings between traditional leaders and councillors was a sound idea that had to be implemented.

Mr Swathe referred to proposed training for ward councillors and asked whether a similar approach could not be adopted for proportional representation councillors. The improvement of road infrastructure had to receive more attention from local government.

Mr Lekgoro asked whether the introduction of standard bylaws would be a better arrangement than the current position where municipalities created bylaws to suit their own particular circumstances.

Dr Khoza acknowledged that many municipal facilities were not user-friendly for the disabled. Municipalities had been sensitized about the shortcomings and budgets would reflect the need to improve the situation for most-frequented areas and buildings. The SALGA constitution now allowed for associate members, such as research institutions and special interest groups, to influence local government policy. A database of user-friendly municipalities for the disabled would be compiled. Best practices would be exchanged amongst municipalities to promote compliance with acceptable standards. All councillors would be trained including proportional representation councillors, but ward councillors would receive specific training as they had an important role to play in development.

Interaction between ward councillors and communities would be encouraged to identify needs and priorities. Ward councillors served as engines of delivery and had been under-trained in the past. SALGA would look at the expansion of water provision as a matter of urgency. Alternative sources of energy had been investigated and a soda dust gel had been identified as a viable option. Approximately R370 billion would be spent by government on addressing infrastructure backlogs in the medium term. SALGA would monitor the spending at the municipal level. Standard bylaws was motivated by the need to amalgamate different regulations and promote uniformity at the local government level. Municipalities could adjust certain aspects where necessary. A standard approach would also help those poorer municipalities that could not produce their own bylaws due to the absence of a legal team.

The meeting was adjourned.


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