South African Local Government Association Budget Review: Cancellation & Committee Third Term Programme: Discussion

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Meeting Summary

The South African Local Government Association had not been able to attend the meeting and drew criticism from Members as this was a regular occurrence.  The Municipal Demarcation Board had completed its programme with the Committee the previous day and had been excused.

The Committee’s programme for the third session was discussed.  There were several items of legislation to be processed and Members were concerned that some of these would not be completed in time.  Authority had been given to hold meetings during the recess period and Members were urged to keep themselves available.  Opposition Members requested that they have the option to submit minority reports if they felt it necessary.  This matter would be discussed later.  The state of municipalities was discussed.  Many of these were not sustainable and Members felt that government needed to look into the viability of some municipal structures.

Meeting report

Introductory comments by Chairperson
The Chairperson observed that some people who were not part of the meeting would take food and disappear.  This was not ethical.  The South African Local Government Association (SALGA) had called to say that they would not attend this meeting due to an emergency meeting with the NEC.  The Municipal Demarcation Board had been excused as they had completed their business with the Committee the previous day.

SALGA non-attendance
He said there was other business at hand.  The Committee needed to complete reports on their activities to enable a smooth handover when the Committee was reformed after the elections in 2009.  Clear recommendations had to be given for the budget.  This had been a misnomer in 2004.  Reports should be adopted and be owned by all members before being forwarded to the ATC process.  These would reflect collective opinions.

The Chairperson said that in Gauteng there was a process whereby the Executive could be checked.  When it came to budget votes the responsible people could be held accountable.  Quarterly meetings should be held with the stakeholders if possible so that the Committee could see if these entities were meeting their targets.

He said there would not be time at present to discuss Annual Reports.  The DA would be too busy campaigning.  There was a need to distribute these reports that day so that Members could engage with them and with their colleagues.  They would be considered when Parliament reconvened in August.

Mr le Roux (DA, Eastern Cape) said this would be good for continuity.  A way had to be found to handle the situation where parties disagreed.  He asked if there was provision for a minority report.

The Chairperson said that dissenting views would be accommodated at the end of the report.

Mr A Manyosi (ANC, Eastern Cape) said he was in a jovial mood.  However, there was a tendency for SALGA to undermine the work of the Committee.  SALGA had not appeared in front of the Committee for four years.  They would take their seats in the visitors’ gallery at the National Assembly (NA), but always made excuses at the eleventh hour when asked to present themselves at the Committee.  This was an abhorrent practice.  The Committee needed to assist Councillors.  It seemed that SALGA was too busy to discuss the issues that were affecting the people.  There were many people on the SALGA executive who could represent the organisation.  The Committee was being treated with contempt and this was unacceptable.  A strong message needed to be sent to them.

Mr le Roux said that SALGA was an embarrassment.  They could not get their own house in order.  They needed to be put on the carpet to explain themselves.

Mr A Worth (DA, Mpumalanga) said that SALGA had suffered their worst report in two years.  There was no improvement in performance.

Dr F van Heerden (FF+, Free State) assumed that they would not have a good report again in 2008. 

The Chairperson said it was the second time in 2008 that SALGA had failed to honour an invitation.  They had attended a joint meeting with the Portfolio Committee.  They had tendered flimsy excuses earlier in the year.  He did not want to have to summons them officially but had given them a chance to attend.

Mr Z Ntuli (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) agreed that SALGA was undermining the Committee.  The law should be invoked to call them to order.  He wondered if there was anything in SALGA’s mandate.

The Chairperson said that he would throw the book at SALGA if needed.  He would look into the matter after the recess.  It was an unacceptable situation and he might have to summons them.

Committee Third Term Programme
He said that the second item on the agenda was the Committee’s programme for the next term.  In principle the first meeting should be used to adopt reports.  In terms of Section 54 of the Assistance Act, the Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG) had to report on the state of municipalities.  The Committee would have to study the report and discuss it.  He wanted to move forward, but the Members must develop their own impressions.  Financial disclosures had to be made and the DPLG had to sign contracts with the respective Heads of Department.  The core was service delivery.  There was potential corruption and this was why the Committee had engaged with the Department.  Intervention into the problems in the Free State (FS) had been discussed the previous day.

Delay in processing Bills
The Chairperson said that the third item to be discussed was the delay in processing Bills.  The report on the state of municipalities would impact on the Bills. 

Land Use Management Bill
The Committee had been called to meet with the Portfolio Committee.  The first time this had happened the joint meeting had discussed the Land Use Management Bill.  There was an application for development in various municipalities.  The Bill would contain guidelines for developers.  One intention was to bring town planning schemes into line.  The new legislation would also promote investment friendly conditions. 

He said that the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture and Land Affairs would also be involved with this Bill.  It was not really their competency as control would be at provincial level.  The Committee would work with them.  They would be briefed by the Portfolio Committee on Local Government.  There was a tight schedule to be followed.  Joint hearings would be held with the Portfolio Committee.  Hearings must go down to ground level.  The Portfolio Committee had undergone a two day workshop.  This Committee also needed to familiarise itself with the Bill.  In the meantime they needed to develop a programme. However, the Bill had been in the offing for seven years.

The Chairperson said that there were difficulties with this Bill.  The DPLG had a very narrow understanding related to specific land usage.  The Presidency was more in favour of central planning.  The National Treasury (NT) had its own views.  Land usage legislation was an instrument to planning.  The Department of Land Affairs (DLA) dealt with the acquisition of land and the resettlement of displaced people where applicable.  The DPLG was more concerned with planning and related issues.  Disputes had to be resolved at Executive level.  It was now time to engage with the Bill.  He expected there would be many amendments.  A schedule would be issued.

Public Administration Management Bill
Mr Shiceka said that the next piece of legislation to be considered was the Public Administration Management Bill.  This had never been discussed but just looked at.  It made provision for a very centralised public service.  Provincial government would need to get permission for appointments from national government.  Some municipal appointments would have to be approved by the President.  There was provision for a bargaining council.  Parliament would have little involvement as most issues would be dealt with at Executive level.  This was quite an issue.  The Public Service Amendment Bill was the precursor to this Bill.  The DPLG had brought back issues which had been discarded in the amendment. There was too much centralisation, and he did not agree with it.  He called on the DA to get their experts to assist with the discussion.  The ANC would also seek out expert advice.

National House of traditional Leaders Bill
The Chairperson said that the third Bill which had to be considered was the National House of traditional Leaders Bill.  In KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) a Member of the Executive Council (MEC) had been given the chair of the provincial House of Traditional Leaders.  However, a Member of Parliament, namely Mr Mangosuthu Buthelezi, had been told that he could not chair the House while still being a Member of Parliament.  The reasoning was that this was a full time job.  The MEC wanted this to be incorporated into the Bill.  The Committee would have to engage with this Bill.  The amendment of the Framework Act would see the DPLG conferring kingship.  A commission had decided who should be kings.  The focus was no on identifying chiefs, and the next step would be to identify headmen.  Something was still needed to fill the gap between kings and chiefs.  The Bill was addressing a striving for normalisation.  The King of KZN had a budget of over R39 million, and even then he was overspending.  There was a feeling that a trust was needed to finance the King.

Mr N Mack (ANC, Western Cape) asked if the commission would inform the House where to put Mr Manyosi.

The Chairperson said there was a need to engage with the Bills.  All of these would be handled according to Section 76.  Engagement was needed at an early stage.  The Committee was empowered to work on them.  The Members had to be well versed in the Bills. Discussions should be held in the provinces.  He sighed over the single public service bill.  He did not think there would be time to finalise this Bill in the term of the current Parliament.  It was involved and radical, and was an attempt at transformation.  There had to be some costing to address the financial implications.  A detailed programme for the Bills would be put out, which would last until the end of September.  Parliament would be taken to the people in November.

Mr Mack said that a lot of intervention would be needed in the FS.  This was a Constitutional obligation.

The Chairperson said that many municipalities were in trouble.  Many of these were in KZN, the North West, Northern Cape, FS and Mpumalanga.  One area where things were going well was Limpopo.  He did not know why this was the case there.  Municipalities faced many challenges.  SALGA should be playing a key role.

Committee Report on Municipalities
van Heerden looked at the legislative programme.  He could not see the current Parliament finishing the programme given the seriousness of the Bills.  Even if the Committee was able to work four hours a day on the legislative programme there would still not be enough time.  There was a thick report which covered all the municipalities in the country.  He thought that the Committee should have access to this report.  If necessary the Committee should buy copies.  Members of this Committee should have access to the report.

The Chairperson said that the report should have been distributed to Members already.  This was the report he had spoken about earlier.  It was part of the Committee’s domain.  On the next day the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) would meet with the Auditor General (AG).  The financial statements of municipalities should be presented to the Committee.  This would become part of an annual meeting.  The picture at present was unimpressive.  In some provinces not a single municipality had managed to earn a clean audit report.  Only one in KZN had a clean report.  The eThekwini municipality had a clean report but there were emphases of matter recorded.  There were problems with financial management in the municipalities.  Track was not being kept of how the money was being spent.  Receipts were not kept and there was a lack of accountability.  The Committee would deal with the reports from the municipalities in tandem with the AG’s report.  These reports were two sides of the same coin.

Mr Manyosi said that Mr le Roux would like to send minority reports to the ATC if this was allowed.  He did not think that minority reports were necessary.  Reports highlighted the interaction with Departments and entities, and tabled recommendations.  They were not the same as the results of votes taken on Bills.  Minority reports had never been entered before.  If there were issues, any entity could be called on for clarification.  He felt that if this was allowed then each opposition party represented on the Committee might want to include a minority report.

Mr le Roux said that in most cases Mr Manyosi would be correct, but the minority report would be needed where the Committee wished to state a political opinion.

Mr Manyosi was pleased with Mr le Roux’s honest comment.  It was unlikely that there would be political opinions in the NCOP.  By its nature, this body had to have a provincial flavour.  The delegates would never be projecting a political viewpoint, but rather the views of their provinces.  The business of the NCOP was run in accordance with Section 65 of the Constitution, and political views would not help if they were aired for their own sake.

Dr van Heerden said that it was customary in courts of law for dissenting judges to enter a minority judgement.  The view of the majority stood, but the minority view was also part of the judgement.  The views of the provinces counted, but provision had to be made for different views.  It would not harm the validity of the Committee’s report.  It might happen, but not often.

Mr Ntuli differed.  A report was simply an account of what had happened.  He asked what difference there could be then, as all Members would be observing the same things.

Mr Mack asked why, if a minority report was permitted, it should be given to parties to express the view.  The Members represented their provinces.  This was an area of conflict.  People could differ at the meetings, but the report came from the Committee as a whole.

Mr le Roux said there was a difference between different and conflicting views.  Members formed their opinions against different backgrounds.  There should be space to express these differences.

Mr Manyosi said there was no such rule in the NCOP.  People would laugh at this suggestion.  There was no room for this proposal.

Dr van Heerden asked if the opposition parties could take a minority view on this issue.

The Chairperson said this was unprecedented.  He would have to consult on the issue.  He would look at the nature of the institution.  It was a body which represented provinces.  Provinces could not give a mandate on every issue, but the delegates did have a leadership mandate.  The ultimate guide would be the rules of the House.  The matter could be discussed after the recess.  Different parties were represented on the Committee.  There was strength in diversity, but there must not be division.

Mr Manyosi said that there was no controversy.  The Chairperson had ensured that the reports on the municipalities had been received.  The Bills would be dealt with as Section 76 legislation.  The Chairperson of the NA and the Chairperson of the NCOP had required the various committees to indicate which had too much work, and these would be authorised to work through the recess if necessary.  The procedure for conferences would not apply.  NCOP funding would be made available and Members would be able to bring their families to Cape Town if they were needed to attend meetings.  The Chairperson would decide on the need for meetings.  The Committee might be forced into intervention.  They might have to deal with the FS issue the following week.  The Members would need approval if they were recalled but would come back.  The FS MEC had been categorical that he would return the following week.  He had given a good briefing the previous day.

The Chairperson said this was a pertinent point, and advised Members to be ready.  Some people were saying that the provinces should be closed and all power at a local level should go to the municipalities.  This could be a sad state of affairs given the current situation in the municipalities.  A review was needed of the White Papers on Local Government and Provincial Government.  The Committee would require a briefing by the DPLG.  Time was the enemy.

He was not sure what should be allowed.  Some municipalities had no possibility of a tax base and were thus not viable.  Bigger areas should be covered.  For example, Pietermaritzburg had an office with the power and function to deal with the people in the district.  It was a question of an economy of scale.  There were 61 municipalities in KZN, more than in any other province.  There was a problem with sustainability.  Municipalities were required to raise 90% of their funding themselves with national government providing the balance.  He asked if municipalities who failed to achieve this funding should be maintained.  A solution might be more centralised government with powers being devolved to lower levels.

The Chairperson said this did not always work.  Midrand had been an example of a vibrant municipality.  It could even afford a helicopter for crime prevention.  Planning was superb and it was the fastest growing city in the country.  DA members helped him to list Midrand’s virtues.  Good work was also being done in a squatter settlement. Then Johannesburg had taken over the municipality and since then things had gone backwards.  Bigger was not always better.

The district municipalities had been reliant on the regional service council levies in the past, and were now dependent on handouts from central government.  It seemed that nobody outside the Committee had sufficient experience with local government.  The Minister and Department were not active at ground level.  The DPLG had reluctantly brought in consultants in an attempt to assess the situation at municipal level.  It had no provincial offices.

The Chairperson said that SALGA were the culprits.  The Committee had played a key role in the configuration of local government and had to ensure that there was engagement on the issues.  He asked the Members to be ready to hold meetings during the recess.  The local government issue had not panned out.  There had been some successes under Project Consolidate, but this was seen as a panacea for all ills.

Mr Ntuli said that if the Members were recalled to meet on the FS issue, there was no need for the MEC to come to Cape Town.  He could brief the Committee in the FS rather.

The Chairperson said that this was an option.

Dr van Heerden said that the Members would be in their constituencies.  He asked if Parliament would supply the air tickets if they were recalled.  They would also be making appointments with their constituents and would need reasonable notice of Committee meetings if they were called.

The Chairperson said the tickets, if needed, would not come from the Members’ own entitlements.  It would be business of Parliament.  There were not enough entitlements as it was.  He took heed of the request for sufficient notice.

Mr Manyosi said that as the meeting had ended so early it might be possible to hold the Select Committee on Security and Constitutional Affairs meeting earlier.  This was scheduled for after the plenary session in the NCOP.  The Members agreed to this, and took a short break.
The meeting was adjourned.


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