Moves to turn around municipalities

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cape Town - Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Sicelo Shiceka says government has begun to roll out several pilot projects as part of turning around local government.

South Africans, from ratepayers to municipal officials, have been urged to rally behind municipalities as government moves to turn them around.

The pilots, which got underway last month, will initially target the two weakest municipalities identified by provincial support teams in each of the nine provinces.

The turnaround strategy would thereafter be rolled out to all municipalities.

Shiceka singled out over 280 ratepayer associations that had created "a parallel government" by placing money into trust funds rather than paying it over to their respective municipalities, which undermined the ability of municipalities to deliver.

"If you are unhappy about potholes, about service delivery, let's discuss that - that's what the municipal specific turnaround is all about," he said.

The timelines for the Local Government Turnaround Strategy were approved by the cabinet on December 2, which would have to be followed by all municipalities.

The turnaround strategy follows an assessment carried out by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs last year on all municipalities.

The Service Delivery Budget Implementation Plans, which will be adopted by all 283 municipalities, will be rolled out between April and June.

The turnaround plans would be tailored to each municipality as the government didn't want a one-size-fits-all strategy, the minister said.

During the final phase to run from July to March 31 next year, MECs will be expected to comment on the commitments made to the Integrated Development Plans of municipalities.

The IDPs will include hands on rapid response support processes, leveraging of stakeholder support and reporting and monitoring.

Any projects that are carried out by municipalities must be based on the turnaround strategies and their IDPs, said Shiceka.

He said beyond the turnaround strategy, amendments for the Municipal Systems Act would be placed before Parliament this month.

The amended act will require that municipalities employ people that are sufficiently skilled for their job.

Failing to do so will allow the MEC to intervene and should the MEC not do so, the national minister will be able to intervene.

Shiceka said this would address the indiscriminate firing of officials that had been going on at municipalities and ensure a more stable local government.

Another bill, expected to come before the cabinet this month, is to deal with those municipal officials who are political officer holders.

Meanwhile, Minister Shiceka said his department was looking into the possibility of there being a single election in the country - combining local, provincial and national government.

The idea had been mooted to broader sector society but had not come before cabinet yet.

He believed that a single election would limit election fatigue and ensure resources were more adequately allocated.

Holding one election would also improve service delivery problems as staging elections at different times was disruptive to the work of officials, he said.