Government steps in to support dysfunctional municipalities

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says the Ministry has resolved to step in to support dysfunctional and distressed municipalities in a bid to improve service delivery. 

The Minister said this when he briefed the media at the Imbizo Centre following two weeks of receiving briefings from the ministry’s stakeholders, including CoGTA provincial leadership. Last Friday, the department held a Meeting of Minister and MECs (MINMEC), where information from provinces and municipalities was analysed. 

“The Constitution of the Republic envisaged that municipalities may struggle to independently execute their mandates. It then made a provision, in terms of Section 154(1) that national and provincial governments, by legislative measures, must support and strengthen the capacity of municipalities to manage their own affairs, to execute their powers and to perform their functions. 

“The Ministry of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, through its implementing agent, the Municipal Infrastructure Support Grant, has decided to intervene extensively and urgently in dysfunctional municipalities and those in distress, in relation to the development and maintenance of infrastructure,” Minister Mkhize said. 

The Minister said despite government’s successful infrastructure delivery programme over the past 20 years, accompanied by technical capacity building initiatives over the years, municipalities still struggle to use the funds allocated to them. 

He said based on the department’s assessments and reports, the performance of a majority of all municipalities was still lagging. 

Seven percent of the country’s municipalities are classified as well functioning. About 31% are reasonably functional, while some 31% are almost dysfunctional. The remaining 31% are dysfunctional, Minister Mkhize said. 

Technical support teams to be dispatched to struggling municipalities 

Since 2012/13, a total of R3.4 billion in Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) transfers was stopped and was reallocated from underspending municipalities to better spending municipalities. 

Minister Mkhize said this is not ideal, as it has an inadvertent consequence of penalising municipalities with a lower capacity, which “punishes” poorer communities.

“This cannot continue. Alternatives must be found to support service delivery to poorer communities.” 

The Minister said over the same period, municipalities failed to spend a total of R8.2 billion. Between 2013/14 and the current financial year, a total of 55 municipalities had their annual MIG allocations stopped at least twice. 

The Minister said that an analysis conducted revealed that these municipalities have various inherent constraints that impede spending. 

He said that their poor performance means municipalities can be regarded as distressed or dysfunctional. 

“We are approaching the provinces and municipalities with a concrete proposal in the spirit of cooperative governance, in accordance with our mandate. 

“The situation requires the urgent deployment of MISA technical capacity experts, in the form of District Technical Support Teams, who will provide support to municipalities towards improving service delivery.  

“The focus of the teams will be to provide infrastructure planning, delivery, operation and maintenance as well as infrastructure management, financial management as well as governance and administration issues,” he said. 

The deployment will place emphasis on the provision of scarce skills such as civil engineering, construction and project management, financial/accounting expertise, town and regional planning, as well as expertise in governance and administration. 

It is envisaged that these teams will build permanent capacity in these municipalities beyond project implementation, the Minister said.   

“Importantly, all supported municipalities will be expected to develop and adopt financial recovery plans to ensure that they become financially stable and have the capacity to independently fund their commitments. 

“Given the difficult situation that our country faces as a water scarce country, consideration is being given to the need to curb the non-revenue water losses through improving water conservation and water demand management in municipalities. Municipalities contribute to water losses through poorly maintained infrastructure within their water reticulation networks and improper asset management.  

“A reduction in water losses will save the precious commodity, while contributing towards improved revenue collection and reliability of water supply,” Minister Mkhize said. –

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