Dysfunctional municipalities turn the corner

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize says several municipalities that were identified as dysfunctional or distressed have turned the corner and interventions are bearing fruit.

The Minister said this when he fielded oral questions together with several Ministers in the governance cluster in the National Assembly on Wednesday.

This comes after the department deployed interventions to assist 87 municipalities that were distressed or dysfunctional last year.

In August 2018, the department, through the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA), deployed district support teams comprising more than 80 engineers and town planners in 55 out of the 87 identified dysfunctional municipalities.

The 55 municipalities were targeted for technical support due to severe challenges in relation to the delivery of municipal infrastructure for basic services and failure to spend their Municipal Infrastructure Support Grant.

Mkhize said when responding to a question on Wednesday that interventions are beginning to bear some fruits.

“Of the 87 municipalities, 55 were supported through MISA to address service and infrastructure delivery challenges which manifested themselves in perennial underspending of MIG allocations.

“Through MISA support, 44 of these municipalities have made significant improvement in performance. This positive change is mainly reflected in improved MIG spending, improvement in revenue collection, filling of vacancies in technical departments, among others,” he said.

Mkhize also said that only 11 of the 55 municipalities were recommended for stopping of MIG allocations for 2018/19 financial year for failing to achieve the 40% spending threshold by end of December 2018.

He also said that there are some distressed municipalities that have improved and “which in our view deserve to be removed from the list of 55 dysfunctional municipalities”.

“A total of 24 municipalities have significantly improved in terms of performance since deployment of district support teams,” he said.

Department addressing debt owed to Eskom

Mkhize said, meanwhile, that government has also addressed issues relating to the debt that’s owed to Eskom and water boards, as well as the problem of municipalities that invested funds in VBS Bank and the impact on service delivery and challenges with revenue collection.

“Beyond promoting good governance, we also focus on improving service delivery so that our people can have water, sanitation, electricity and other important basic services,” he said.

Some of the issues that have been attended to include:  

- The spending of the Municipal Infrastructure Grant allocations.

- Filling of critical technical positions and those of senior management.

- Improvements in revenue collection through the introduction of revenue enhancement strategies.

- The development and implementation of water conservation and demand management plans in some municipalities such as Matatiele, Kou Kama, Moses Kotane, Mafube, Letsemeng, uMzinyathi, Ugu and Abaqulusi.

- The right-sizing of municipal establishments.

- Removal of unaffordable supernumerary employees.

- Removal of inappropriately qualified officials.

- Firm stand on fraud and corruption, including consequent management and stronger role for Municipal Public Accounts Committees.

Mkhize said the Auditor General’s 2016/17 report highlighted a few contributors to the distressed state of municipalities, and said that the department has sought to address them.

This includes vacancies and instability in key positions and inadequate skills levels.

“Lack of consequence management, poor internal controls, poor or lack of support by provincial and national government are among the reasons.

“Another key factor is political infighting at council level and interference in the administration which weakened oversight and service delivery. As Minister I have engaged political leaders at various levels to confront these issues.

“Our Municipal Recovery Programme is moving very well and while challenges still remain in various municipalities, we are happy with the progress we have made thus far.” – SAnews.gov.za