COGTA getting somewhere with municipalities…..
It is quite apparent why the seemingly impossible task of integrating local, provincial and national government service has been given to minister Pravin Gordhan of cooperative governance and traditional affairs (COGTA). He seems quite determined that all provinces and municipalities have to deliver on their constitutional mandate.
His department of cooperative governance (DCOG) recently updated Parliament on the current situation, led by some opening remarks by the minister himself. He went straight to the nub of the issue by stating that section 139 of the Constitution provided for intervention by the relevant provincial executive if a municipality could not or did not fulfil an executive obligation.
Whilst the Local Government Reform Act, passed in 2014, has helped considerably by refining local electoral areas nationally down to 137, whilst 95 municipal districts have been designated in most cases to correspond with electoral areas. Thus, more representative structures have been established although some suspected at the time this was an election ploy.
Stabilisation of local government was the key, said minister Pravin to parliamentarians, and the process of “Back to Basics”, one of the 16 SIP strategic items on the list of the National Development Plan, was the basis of the department’s 2015/6 annual performance plan. This to ensure municipalities performed in their dealings with local government at the coal face.
Minister Pravin said, “Local government plays a key role in determining whether people live with dignity and whether they are able to access economic opportunities, consequently contributing to the overall development of the country”. Part of COGTA’s mandate, he said, was to understand and support the development of intergovernmental relations in all three tiers of government.
New Bill to make third tier accountable
Vusi Madonsela, DG of DCOGTA, advised that they were “aiming to build accountability for performance in local government systems by setting and enforcing clear performance standards by March 2019. To this end a new Intergovernmental Monitoring, Support and Intervention (IMSI) Bill would be processed through Parliament.
The performance of municipal public accounts committees (MPAC’s) therefore in all “dysfunctional municipalities as well as municipalities with adverse and disclaimer opinions would be monitored and enforced”, he said.
Changing attitudes to debt
Madonsela also said, “The culture of payment for services would be encouraged nationally with campaigns” and part of DOCG’s task was to improve the ability of at least 60 municipalities to collect outstanding debt. He named other targets such as to strengthen anti-corruption measures by 2019 and to have achieved a full local government anti corruption tribunal systems working.
He also said DCOG would start with 12 districts to develop integrated development plans and eight cities and towns would also be supported and monitored in developing long term strategies and proper spatial development programmes.
Skills always the problem
Opposition members called on COGTA for better performance by local government training SETAs. Many institutions were conducting training programmes for councillors but in the process had found that many councillors literally have no skills or formal education. Madonsela responded by saying there were now regulations being passed to weed out unqualified persons and those with false CVs.
Minister Pravin agreed that some of the factors that led to dysfunctional local government structures included political instability and problems with service delivery and institutional management inability. Councillors were nominated and appointed by their political parties, he said, and “perhaps it should be a conversation amongst MPs on how councillors should be appointed.”
Back to “Back to Basics”
The net result at the moment, said minister Gordhan, that one in three municipalities, according to a study conducted nationwide, were failing and the success of the “Back to Basics Programme” would now depend on inter-government transfers to bring in skills and changing the employment criteria to economic, tax and financial viability experience.
He concluded that his department was getting tough where municipalities had broken the law and some of the answers may lie in strengthening district municipalities with specialists and merging some municipalities. Another option was to abolish local municipalities completely and in their stead, start again with district management areas but he did not elaborate on this.
Other articles in this category or as background
Municipal free basic services slow – ParlyReportSA
Local government skills totally lacking – ParlyReport
Electricity connections not making targets – ParlyReportSA