Cogta outlines measures to clean up municipal ranks

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) has announced it is implementing measures to ensure that senior staff dismissed in one municipality cannot occupy a position in another. 

The intervention is among a range outlined by Cogta Deputy Minister Andries Nel during the annual Chartered Institute of Government Finance, Audit and Risk Officers (Cigfaro) conference in Ekurhuleni on Tuesday. 

The focus of this year’s conference is on reclaiming governance and accountability in the public sector. 

Cogta, said Nel, is implementing the measures to increase institutional capability. The interventions include the department monitoring the functionality of municipal oversight bodies such as Audit Committees and Municipal Public Accounts Committees. 

Cogta will also promote the leadership and institutionalisation of the Code of Conduct for Councillors and Officials in order to promote accountability and consequence management; ensure that ward committees are established and functional; and ensure that municipal community complaints management systems are in place and communities actively participate in governance processes of the municipality. 

“When President Ramaphosa delivered the State of the Nation Address in February this year, he spoke of a new era of hope for the country and pledged to tackle corruption, unemployment and inequality,” Nel said.  

President Ramaphosa reiterated his stance on corruption at a meeting with professionals in June. 

Nel said Cogta has a long-term project of improving municipal financial management, as this is critical for the transformation of local government.

“This is not an excuse or a rationalisation. It is a reality. There are no quick fixes - just work, hard, and hopefully also smart, work together (sic),” he said. 

Despite significant progress made, Nel added, there is still a long way to go before all 257 municipalities are fully functional. 

“Cogta will continue to focus on facilitating the implementation of the five pillars of the Back to Basic (B2B) programme. Cogta will intensify efforts to build functional municipalities nationwide through an intensive Municipal Recovery Programme.” 

The programme consists of a package of support and interventions focused on governance, service delivery and financial management. 

Cogta and National Treasury have identified and prioritised a list of 87 municipalities and developed Integrated Municipal Recovery Plans. Joint teams have been formed by the two departments to work with their provincial counterparts to address priority financial management support and intervention measures. 

“A major aspect of improving institutional capabilities is ensuring the appointment of suitably qualified personnel. Cogta has developed systems to monitor and support the area of recruitment and selection of appropriately qualified and competent senior managers,” said Nel. 

The objective is to professionalise local government administration and to enable municipalities to perform their constitutional obligations. 

During the 2017/18 financial year, 423 appointments were concluded with competent and suitably qualified senior managers.

Technical teams for 55 municipalities 

To support effective service delivery, Cogta committed to -- through its implementing agent, the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent  (MISA) -- urgently support struggling municipalities to spend their grant allocations, while at the same time, building internal capacity to plan, deliver, operate and maintain infrastructure. 

Nel said the importance and urgency of this work is underscored by the fact that only 55 municipalities have registered engineers leading their technical divisions.  

Cogta has appointed several technical teams to the 55 municipalities to address identified deficiencies. The teams consist of engineers, construction and project managers, financial accountants, town and regional planners as well as governance and administration experts.   

Improving audit outcomes 

Regarding adverse audit outcomes, Nel said Cogta was concerned that 28 municipalities had received disclaimer audit opinions in the 2017/18 financial year. 

He said there were several root causes for this, with leadership instability, ineffective governance structures and lack of consequence management chief among these. 

“Of particular concern is a leadership deficiency in addressing the lack of accountability by implementing consequences against those who flouted basic processes that hampered effective municipal governance,” Nel said. 

He said it was important for municipalities to intensify internal controls to mitigate the root causes. 

“The challenges in local government are indeed daunting but not insurmountable. With commitment, hard work and collaboration amongst all stakeholders, we can move forward,” he said. –