Municipalities need to deliver services, or else…
The damning report by Auditor General(AG) Terence Nombembe in August amplifies the importance of getting to the root of the cause of poor performance in our municipalities.
Every financial year, Nombembe releases bad reports about municipalities. There has been little to no improvement in some municipalities, many of whom have always received ‘dirty’ audits, according to the AG.
Nombembe released his last report on local government before his seven-year term as South Africa’s AG ends in November. Nombembe said the exemplary results of three municipalities (the Western Cape’s local municipalities of George, Langeberg and Mossel Bay) are commendable, and added that they prove beyond doubt that that clean administration is possible where there is leadership and commitment.
The winning formula of these audits, the AG said, was that their leaders led by example and made concerted efforts to resolve audit matters raised in their previous year’s reports. “And their results are a testimony that where political and administrative leadership set the right tone and work together to implement and constantly monitor basic internal controls, good governance is achievable.”
Nombembe said the next step in the march towards wholesale clean administration was for these auditees to work hard to sustain their ‘clean’ audit status, as done by their three counterparts. The district municipalities of Waterberg (in Limpopo), Ehlanzeni (Mpumalanga) and The West Coast (Western Cape) maintained clean audit results
The AG has called for decisive action to be taken against political leaders and municipal officials that deliberately or negligently ignore their duties and disobey legislation. Gross disregard for the public interest by 70% of the auditees and the lack of consequences for wrongdoing has slowed down improvement in local government audit outcomes.
To assist local government in dealing with malpractice, the AG’s office has compiled a booklet on the legislation to be used in dealing with those who do not comply with regulations.
He calls upon the councillors of the 76% of the auditees where he had encountered slow responses in addressing the poor audit outcomes to prioritise their pursuit of the knowledge and skills. These municipalities also need to carry out their oversight duties and insist on support from the national and provincial government.
Nombembe added that, although progress towards clean audits is slow, he is encouraged by examples across the country where the commitment of leaders and officials has resulted in improved audit outcomes. His office will continue to work closely with all those responsible for governance and oversight in municipalities as part of the drive towards clean administration in municipalities.
“I am confident that similar results can be achieved, from the smallest local municipality to the biggest metro. Those who progressed to and maintained clean audits have done so by consistently taking ownership of their municipal performance practices and insisting on adequately qualified staff and effective performance management practices,” said Nombembe. “These simple basics can work for any municipality or entity – all it takes to instil these disciplines is the right, ethical leadership tone driven by a sense of duty and service to South Africans who patiently wait for services in the respective municipalities.”
Service delivery grievances are constant and government needs to go back to the drawing board and look at how to improve the situation… but they seem happy to just drag their feet. It is evident in Cape Town that the municipalities are failing as we have witnessed angry residents throwing faeces on government premises – showing their dissatisfaction at service delivery by local government.
It is alarming that these municipalities keep relapsing into their old ways and yet the government doesn’t show any signs of reprimanding these non-performing miscreants. One of the major problems facing local government is that the ruling party appoints people to operate in these municipalities through ‘cadre deployment’ without checking whether the person is capable and qualified for the position.
Cadre deployment has a hugely negative impact on service delivery as former revolutionaries are not appointed according to the skills they have for the job but to serve the interests of the African National Congress. They are rewarded for their loyalty to the party (or to individuals and factions within the party).
Ordinary citizens become the victims of these cadre deployments as service delivery suffers badly. Corruption plays a major role in slowing service delivery and disrupts municipalities – thus hindering productivity. Corrupt leaders misuse the money that is intended to better the lives of the people who live in the municipalities they serve.
According to The Sunday Times, African National Congress Mayor Maphetle Maphetle has been linked to fraudulent transactions involving R3.2 million in shares connected to the Mooi Rivier Mall. Maphetle also allegedly received a R736 000 customised Mercedes Benz bought by the council.
This echoes alarming reports by the AG that indicate that funds meant for the municipalities are being used by officials for personal use. The issue of battling for positions within municipal structures also impacts heavily in delaying service delivery to the people.
This means that the only people who are badly affected by the poor performance of the municipalities under which they fall are the people at grassroots level. We cannot run away from the fact that these people who are affected are mainly black and coloured people.
The ANC government is failing them completely. It has failed some people in the other municipalities dismally. There are some people who have been waiting for proper service delivery and development since 1994. That’s a very long time for a country that has 19 years of democracy but still doesn’t deliver basic services to its people. The main problem is in the rural municipalities and at a ground level.
It is imperative for such local municipalities to at least try to emulate metropolitan municipalities as urban centres seem to be doing a much better job. This does not mean they were without flaw, but they came out on top.
None of the eight metropolitan municipalities we have in South Africa received a clean audit. Those are: Cape Town Metro, Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, eThekwini Metro, Johannesburg Metro, Ekurhuleni Metro, Tshwane Metro, Mangaung Metro and Buffalo City Metro. Nevertheless, metropolitan municipalities are still regarded as the best performing municipalities compared to districts and local municipalities.
What we need to find out: what is it that the metro municipalities do differently in order to perform well and receive clean audits that the districts and local municipalities do not do.
It is high time that government puts stringent regulations in place to ensure transparency and accountability in all municipalities. This will not only help shape municipalities for the better, but could also see the high rise in service delivery protests decline.
Andile Mbanjwa, Siyavuya Khaya and Sonwabo Macingwana