KZN 2010/2011 Budget Debate -
Co-operative Governance (Vote 11)

 

By Roman Liptak MPL
 

KwaZulu-Natal Legislature
Pietermaritzburg : 14 April 2010

 

Chairperson, unlike in relation to other government departments where we merely act as the opposition, here, as a political party in charge of more than half of the province’s municipalities, the IFP can credibly assume the role of a legitimate partner and stakeholder.

 

This particular department exists to assist municipalities in the province in a spirit of co-operative governance. In our response to its budget, we will identify those areas where, in our experience, it could do more to help municipalities fulfil their constitutional mandate.

 

One word of comment about the recent interventions in municipalities. We understand that placing municipalities under administration by the provincial government is a last resort which places additional financial pressure on the Department of Co-operative Governance. Political considerations aside, it is also an indictment of how badly some municipalities perform in terms of their own administration, compliance with legislation and, ultimately, service delivery.

 

I wish to put this issue into context by pointing out that the four local municipalities, including one aspiring metro, that have been placed under administration in KwaZulu-Natal over the last year are but a fraction of the total of 23 local and district municipalities countrywide that have met the same fate. KwaZulu-Natal is not unique; North West, Free State and Mpumalanga each saw 5 municipal interventions out of a much smaller total of municipalities in each of these provinces.

 

A recent municipal indaba of all our councillors committed all IFP-run municipalities in the province to the national department’s turnaround strategy. We may have our doubts about the one-size-fits-all nature of this approach – handed down from the national department - but we are prepared to give it a chance and not dismiss it as yet another exercise of its kind in a pattern that has seen many instances of municipal unrest followed by assessment programmes that led directly to various turnaround strategies.

 

If we are looking for ways to exploit the generic nature of this turnaround strategy and if, at the same time, we are contemplating targeted lifestyle audits for senior officials in the provincial government departments, this particular department could extend this initiative to local government and start by compiling a list of councillors and municipal officials who owe money to municipalities for rates or service charges.

 

Chairperson, in addition to the MFMA, municipalities have too many laws and regulations to comply with. They often get so bogged down with paperwork that they lose focus on the most important thing which is service delivery to their residents. Using its existing structures, the department must actively look for ways to reduce the reporting and compliance burden of municipalities so that they can focus more on the essential services.

 

Our municipalities – and this concern goes back a long way - are expected to foot the bill for functions that are not local government functions. Unfunded mandates not only use up limited municipal funding but put extra pressure on municipalities’ human resources. Our appeal is to the department – and other stakeholders such as SALGA - to address unfunded mandates such as libraries which are assigned to provinces in the Constitution.

 

Then there are Integrated Development Plans. Every municipality's IDP is assessed by this department on an annual basis for credibility. Many IDPs only exist on paper and are not being implemented in practice. There does not appear to be a strong relationship between IDPs and municipal budgets and if this is the case, what is the point of an IDP? It should be an action plan, not a wish list and the department has to assist municipalities in this regard by way of nurturing integrated planning skills.

 

Chairperson, we are also concerned about municipalities ’s s for disasters, particularly when they are the first port of call when disasters strike. It is time for this department and indeed the entire provincial government to co-opt municipalities and various stakeholders and begin to think differently about disasters. We must look beyond disaster management centres as we know them.

 

The long-term solution to disasters is to be proactive and identify disaster risks and, in doing so, prevent disasters or reduce their impact when they occur. One obvious example is ensuring that storm water drains are kept clear by municipalities in order to prevent or reduce flooding. Other examples of such co-operation I confidently leave to the department and individual municipalities.

 

Chairperson, finally, I take this opportunity to call into question the effectiveness of the Community Development Worker Programme. It is an example of a good idea compromised by politics. There are definite areas where CDWs could live up to their job description. They could facilitate community projects such as food gardens or individual ventures such as starting small businesses. They could also help create awareness about domestic violence or access to social grants.

 

These are good initiatives, but we must first ensure that CDWs are held accountable for their work. The fact that they are appointed and paid by the department while working in the municipal environment is a source of tension and this tension has not always been creative tension. Too often politics gets in the way of municipal business and it is the responsibility of the department to ensure CDWs are primarily accountable to residents in their wards. 

 

Chairperson, our comments about this department’s budget are constructive and we hope the Hon. MEC for Co-operative Governance will see them as such.

 

I thank you.

 


Contact:
Roman Liptak
078 302 0929