South African Local Government Association: briefing

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

13 November 2006
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PROVINCIAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

PROVINCIAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
14 November 2006
SOUTH AFRICAN LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION: BRIEFING


Chairperson: Mr S Tsenoli (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Draft Committee Annual Report 2006
Draft India Oversight Visit Committee Report
[available once adopted at Committee Reports]

South African Local Government Association (SALGA) website

SUMMARY
The Committee met with the South African Local Government Association Chairperson to receive a political overview of the Association as the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Finance Officer had already provided an operational report. Accountability and service delivery were core objectives at the local government level. SALGA explained that it had undergone an organisational change process in 2004. Monitoring systems had been established to track the organisation’s performance. SALGA requested parliamentary committee meeting timetables in advance to ensure timely and meaningful preparation and input. It reported that international local government associations expressed much interest in the South African local government structures. Memorandums of Understanding were in place with certain regional governments.

Members asked about the capacity of SALGA provincial associations, future government funding for SALGA, how smaller municipalities with limited tax bases could be assisted, whether SALGA leadership reflected the minority political parties, adjustment of membership fees for poorer municipalities, public participation in local government, salaries paid to municipal managers, how to improve the productivity levels of councillors and the decentralisation of powers and functions to the local level. Other comments were that SALGA had to organise better representation in the National Council of Provinces and the responsibility to train councillors had to be clearly assigned.

MINUTES
The Chairperson stated that the intention of the meeting was to receive a political overview of the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) from the SALGA Chairperson. Key challenges would be outlined that could be tackled in an integrated manner incorporating the Portfolio Committee where appropriate. Accountability and service delivery were core target areas.

South African Local Government Association (SALGA) presentation
Councillor Amos Masondo (SALGA Chairperson) declared that SALGA now operated in an acceptable manner following a process of organisational change. A change of leadership had occurred at the political, administrative and management levels in 2004. A forensic audit had been completed and a consequent report was now available. Allegations of impropriety had been forwarded to the National Prosecuting Authority for further investigation. The forensic report had revealed serious shortcomings in internal controls within the organisation. SALGA existed as a quasi-government structure that had to interact with a range of different stakeholders. Systems had been established to track the performance of the organisation. SALGA officials attended numerous parliamentary committee meetings. For example, 150 meetings were attended in 2005/6 out of a total potential of 188 meetings. The quality of input at meetings had dramatically improved. However, problems around co-ordination of stakeholders remained. Certain meetings were arranged at short notice or cancelled at the last minute. A timeframe of planned meetings was required to assist SALGA in adequately preparing in advance to ensure meaningful input at meetings. A letter had been written to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) Chairperson to obtain the meeting schedule for related committees in the short term to allow timely preparation and planning.

The SALGA national office would support the provincial offices in this regard so that meaningful contributions could be made in stakeholder meetings Strong international demand existed for SALGA to interact with similar international organisations and stakeholders. South Africa possessed unique local government structures that international bodies sought to emulate. South Africa’s local government system remained topical at multi-lateral institutions such as the United Nations and the European Union. The Johannesburg Metro had developed a knowledge centre model that had attracted significant interest in terms of stakeholder interaction. SALGA also focused attention on other international models in order to derive relevant information to adapt to local conditions. For example, the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) had been established in Paris in 2004. SALGA had played a prominent role in establishing a similar organisation in Africa, namely, UCLG-Africa. SALGA made financial contributions to ensure that the Africa body was established. SALGA also interacted with local government bodies in other countries. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with stakeholders had been signed at the Afrocity Summit. Other MOUs would be signed with certain regional countries. SALGA was cautious not to sign agreements with partners that would prove difficult to implement. Relationships had been established with local government associations in other African countries such as Nigeria, Mali and Sierra Leone. The international unit within SALGA would be strengthened by means of capacity-building.

Discussion
The Chairperson asked whether the SALGA executive was satisfied with the present mandating system that issued instructions to the members. Further information was requested on the capacity of SALGA provincial offices.

Mr P Smith (IFP) asked for an assessment of the new group of municipal councillors and whether corporate memory had been retained. He asked whether the long-term plan for SALGA involved complete independence from government funding and total reliance on member’s contributions. Comment was sought on the envisaged single public service model and its implications for SALGA.

Mr B Solo (ANC) asked how smaller municipalities with limited tax bases would be assisted to improve capacity and drive enhanced service delivery. The international unit had to be strengthened to further advance the sound international endeavours.

Mr S Mshudulu (ANC) noted the large number of meetings that SALGA officials had to attend and acknowledged the strain it placed on the organisation. Detail was requested on the current programme with the Department of Provincial and Local Government and how activities could be co-ordinated to avoid duplication. Inconsistencies in the various SALGA provincial offices had to be identified and addressed. Experiences at the African and international levels had to be incorporated into best practice. Johannesburg served as a sound example for integration at the local government level. Plans had to be devised to improve local government service delivery.

Mr W Doman (DA) stated that SALGA existed as a statutory body run by politicians. He noted that significant numbers of Inkatha Freedom Party councillors existed in Kwazulu-Natal and Democratic Alliance councillors in the Western Cape and he asked whether the SALGA leadership positions adequately reflected this fact. The Chairperson of SALGA also served as the Mayor of Johannesburg, a position that involved much responsibility and effort, and he asked whether SALGA would be better served by individuals that did not have additional responsibilities and that could devote total attention to the organisation. SALGA had to organise better representation in the NCOP. Membership fees contributed to the SALGA operating budget but severely handicapped smaller municipalities with low tax bases. The fee structure was determined at the SALGA conference and then approved by the same individuals at municipal councils. The fee structure could be adjusted to accommodate smaller municipalities. The responsibility to train councillors had to be clearly assigned. Further information was requested on the SALGA pension fund system such as demands on municipalities. SALGA as a salary bargaining council was an important task. He asked whether SALGA could give guidance to the issue of salaries paid to municipal managers and establish some level of normality in the public interest.

Mr Masondo declared that the SALGA national executive committee managed affairs at a central level. Previously, numerous working groups had tended to complicate matters by taking unilateral decisions and operating in isolation to some extent. Now central decisions were taken. Officials had to act in a responsible manner at the provincial level in accordance with the SALGA constitution. Provincial associations were no longer semi-autonomous bodies and all staff were paid from the SALGA Head Office. All provincial association heads were referred to as deputy-CEOs. Institutional memory was lost when councillors were changed following elections. However, certain individuals did return to facilitate some retention of knowledge. A certain percentage of personnel had to be retained to continue the institutional memory. SALGA wanted to be financially independent in the long-term. Associate memberships would be established with academic and professional organisations that would pay fees to SALGA and contribute to training initiatives. For example, municipal managers could engage with students at tertiary institutions to provide valuable insight and advice. Experienced and knowledgeable Metro officials could also assist smaller municipalities in addressing basic service delivery issues in line with Project Consolidate.

 

SALGA supported the notion of a single public service as the model would allow skills migration across the public sector. Discrepancies between salaries and working conditions would be eradicated. For example, nurses employed by a provincial government earned more than those employed by a municipality while working in the same hospital. A single civil service would improve the quality of facilities at the local level. Attempts would be made to make more financial resources available for service delivery in smaller municipalities by reducing budget allocations for salaries and other expenditures. SALGA had to be committed to improving service delivery and development at the local government level. Migration to urban areas was an international phenomenon that was the subject of much debate at multi-lateral institutions. Africa would continue to experience significant growth in urban settlements. Urbanisation was a reality that necessitated wide-ranging government planning and preparation. International migration had a distinct impact on local populations. Many Africans were residing in European cities.

SALGA had a history of working with minority political parties and encouraged co-operation between opposition parties at the municipal level and particularly within the Metros to improve quality of life. For example, SALGA would support the promotion of inter-party relations in the Cape Town Metro. The establishment of a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at SALGA had contributed to better overall hands-on management. The CEO would also play a role in extending capacity within the organisation through an injection of experience. Permanent representation at the NCOP would be pursued. SALGA requested Parliamentary Committee plans in advance to assist with internal planning. Membership fees were necessary to ensure the continuation of SALGA. Training of councillors would commence in partnership with tertiary institutions. Councillors had to be elected and therefore required a requisite level of popularity. However, elected councillors also had to possess adequate levels of skills to ensure service delivery. Therefore, councillors would receive academic training to acquire a particular skills level and add value. Councillors served five-year terms of office that provided ample opportunity for skills enhancement. Training would be conducted in conjunction with other stakeholders. An integrated pension fund was necessary to promote efficiency and improve returns for pension fund members. The salaries of municipal managers had to find a balance between the need to attract necessary skills by offering competitive salaries but to remain within a realistic framework. Specific skills would require market-related salaries.

Ms M Gumede (ANC) referred to the discrepancy in pay between full-time and part-time municipal councillors and asked whether the issue would be addressed. Certain part-time councillors complained of similar workloads to full–time councillors for less remuneration. She asked how SALGA would improve the productivity levels of under-performing councillors. The capacity of councillors had to be evaluated to devise meaningful training programmes and gauge performance.

The Chairperson asked whether SALGA regarded public participation in Local Government as an important aspect of the sector in general. Adequate levels of public consultation would enhance the overall image of local government. He asked whether certain powers and functions could be devolved from the provincial level to local government. Detail was requested on the pace and rate of decentralisation.

Mr Smith referred to the legislative process and asked whether key problem areas were addressed in legislation. He asked whether SALGA was involved in identifying crucial problem areas to be addressed through legislation in partnership with the Department.

The Chairperson reminded Members that the Committee could also propose legislative amendments if the need arose. SALGA could develop a legislative alert system to notify members of key legislative amendments and to propose changes to the existing legislative framework.

Mr Smith stated that the Committee had previously agreed to produce a Members Bill to introduce changes to local government legislation.

The Chairperson agreed that this could be done in collaboration with key stakeholders. The Committee would focus extensively on the issue of migration next year. Levels of migration had to impact on infrastructure investment strategies and decisions.

Mr Masondo responded that public participation in local government was important and the culture of communication had to be strengthened further. Road shows took place in certain municipalities where officials engaged with the public on important issues. Emphasis was placed on allowing people to raise issues. Petitions were raised in councils on certain issues that tended to then “get lost” in the system. A petitions and public participation committee had been established in the Johannesburg Metro to ensure that petitions were dealt with. The committee could summon relevant individuals to account for progress in addressing the petition’s demands. All stakeholders should strive to deepen public participation and democracy in local government. Decentralisation of powers and functions had to occur. Certain functions should be located in their proper place. For example, municipalities with the requisite skills should be able to repair broken water pipes at schools that currently were the preserve of provincial departments.

The Chairperson asked whether service level agreements were functioning in an optimal manner.

Mr Masondo replied that many service level problems were practical in nature and should be corrected at the local government level in the interests of efficiency.

Mr Smith stated that agency agreements would allow competent municipalities to carry out certain functions.

Mr Masondo declared that certain pieces of legislation should be re-examined. Some private sector companies tended to bypass the municipalities and obtain permission from the provincial government to carry out certain functions. The legislative framework should be re-examined in a collective manner to facilitate efficient service delivery.

The Chairperson stated that existing legislation was intended to be an interim measure until final legislation was produced. Discussion with the Department of Land Affairs could be held to improve the planning principles of the legislation. The assistance offered by the National Treasury to small rural municipalities served as an interesting example of one-country-one tax-base.

Mr Mshudulu asked what steps the Department could take to assist SALGA in meeting its objectives.

The Chairperson referred to the annual strategic planning workshop with the Department where key challenges were outlined and appropriate strategies devised. SALGA could make input at the workshop. The two reports could not be adopted due to the lack of a quorum. Certain additions would also be made to the reports in the short term and would be adopted at another meeting.

The meeting was adjourned.





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