The fish rots from the head and if change is to take place - it must begin at the top. These sentiments were expressed by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister, Zweli Mkhize on Monday.
“If municipalities must change, the municipal managers must be in the forefront of that change. Change in local government is in your hands,” said Mkhize.
The Minister made these remarks at the 13th National Municipal Managers Forum in Germiston, Ekurhuleni on Monday. The forum provides a platform for stakeholders to discuss the policy agenda of local government.
His comments come on the back of what could best be described as a turbulent year for municipalities, with 87 declared dysfunctional and distressed.
In light of this, Mkhize called on municipal accounting officers and heads of administration to ensure that the Municipal Recovery Plan succeeds.
The recovery plan includes addressing the challenges faced by municipalities such as governance, poor financial management, infrastructure and services, fraud and corruption and political meddling.
“We all know that everything happens in a ward and in a municipality. Municipal managers must take responsibility for good governance in the councils. In short, municipal managers must stick to the letter and spirit of the law to take local government to the expected level of service delivery,” said the Minister.
With underspending on infrastructure cited among the challenges at municipalities, Mkhize said his department is currently focusing on 57 high priority municipalities where R57 billion is being spent to improve infrastructure.
These municipalities account for over 87% of all households living in informal settlements or backyard dwellings.
They also constitute over 50% of all backlogs and are the epicentre of recorded public service delivery protests.
“Returning unused Municipal Infrastructure Grants funds is tantamount to punishing poor communities. Similarly, the diversion of conditional grants to cover operational expenditure must end,” said Mkhize.
The Minister said his department is in talks with the private sector in search of funding models to accelerate the refurbishment of faulty infrastructure such as sewerage treatment plans and the connection of bulk water to reticulate water to nearby villages.
Qualified staff needed to run municipalities
Touching on the need for qualified staff, Mkhize said COGTA will not hesitate to reverse the appointment of people who do not possess the minimum requirements and appropriate qualifications for positions in municipality.
“A well-oiled municipal administrative machinery must be the pride of the municipality.
“We scrutinise applications for waivers on appropriate qualifications and do not hesitate to decline where the grounds are unclear or the motivation not convincing,” said Mkhize. – SAnews.gov.za