Debate On KZN COGTA Service Delivery Report
By Roman Liptak MPL
Shadow KZN MEC For Finance


 

 

Kwazulu-Natal Legislature Pietermaritzburg: Thursday, 1 September 2011

 

 

First of all, I would like to commend the Honourable MEC and her department for the way they have managed the fallout from the local government elections which produced a large number of hung municipalities with no clear single-party majority. The most important contribution was a successful induction programme for the new councillors organised by SALGA, for which COGTA’s support was absolutely crucial. There have also been important initiatives such as the audit of councillors doubling as municipal officials and the audit of councillors’ skills. Important - and overdue - action has also been taken by the Department of Education on the issue of councillors doubling as teachers and school principals.

 

One of the immediate challenges COGTA is having to deal with in the aftermath of these past local government elections is the financial position of some municipalities. We urge the Honourable MEC to keep our portfolio committee up to date on the cash flows in those municipalities that find themselves in a negative cash position. The department has provided us with a list of forensic investigations that are currently underway in more than 20 municipalities and we would like regular updates on the implementation of recommendations from these reports after they have been presented to the respective councils.

 

This information is essential for effective oversight simply because municipal audit opinions which we receive do not cover the most recent financial statements and very often they offer us little indication of the quantity and quality of service delivery on the ground. We hope that the large-scale performance audit for which our province has been selected will give us better understanding of the status of service delivery in our municipalities.

 

We recognise that municipalities are a separate sphere of government which limits both the scope of interventions by COGTA in their affairs and our own oversight. We understand that COGTA, as an outsider with certain responsibilities towards municipalities, sometimes finds itself in the crossfire between political parties that are represented in our councils. But COGTA must also understand that very often it is the most immediate institution available for intervention when it comes to issues of party representivity in decision-making in municipal Exco’s. I am specifically referring to those municipalities where the IFP is represented on the executive committees but where it has been excluded from important decisions such as the appointments of section 57 managers. 

 

We commend the department for its role in encouraging individual councils to establish Municipal Accounts Committees. Our province has the highest number of MPACs following the 2010 local government elections in the country, with only three municipalities without such an oversight body. We also welcome the assistance our own SCOPA has pledged in supporting all MPACs as they improve oversight in our municipalities. We appreciate that the role of these committees is more complicated than that of our SCOPA given the lack of clear separation of powers within municipal councils.

 

One concern we all share with our rural municipalities is their inability to generate their own income and their continued survival on conditional grants. We have been talking about the need to expand the rates base in rural municipalities since the day the current structure of local government was introduced. It is clear that COGTA must support these efforts more actively. Those who do not contribute to the running of a municipality in any way, and I am specifically referring to businesses operating in our traditional areas, do not have a meaningful stake in municipal affairs. One only needs to look at the successes of the ratepayers associations, some of which have mounted a more effective municipal opposition than the political parties represented in their councils. I personally believe their work has improved the quality of local democracy in many municipalities.  

 

We also note COGTA’s request for a massive budgetary allocation for the next financial year to cover the cost of salaries for izinduna and Traditional Council secretaries. This is happening only a few years after the department’s payroll had to absorb a large number of Community Development Workers. The obvious concern is whether COGTA isn’t turning into another big public service employer with growing numbers of employees who have a limited impact on service delivery. Are we even asking if we are getting value for money or are we just creating jobs in the civil service for the sake of it?

 

Another concern regarding this new expenditure is that we may be witnessing a repeat of the initial implementation of OSDs for various professions in other departments. These new budgetary pressures started off as unfunded mandates legislated at national level and implemented from the provincial budget. We also hope that the PERSAL-related issues of numbers of nurses and teachers will not be repeated in COGTA when it comes to izinduna. We simply need to know, Honourable MEC, whether the department knows how many izinduna there are before it starts paying their salaries.

 

I thank you.

 

Contact: Roman Liptak, 078 302 0929