No more jobs-for-sale in local government

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Sicelo Shiceka has called for tighter control of human resource management in municipalities to effectively deal with service delivery protests. Nthambeleni Gabara reports.

Local government authorities have sent out a stern warning to municipal authorities that corruption, lack of service delivery and financial mismanagement will be stamped out.

Shiceka recently released a damning report that highlighted high levels of irregular appointments, coupled with low capacity and poor skills development programmes in local government.

The report, which was commissioned by the department over a four- month period, provided a reflection of all 283 municipalities in the country. It painted a grim picture of the state of some of the country's municipalities and noted incidents such as a former tea lady being appointed to Chief Financial Officer and that the financial environment was open to abuse and fraudulent activities.

At a recent local government indaba, the Minister said: "There must be tighter control of human resource management in municipalities so that only those with necessary skills should be appointed in those strategic positions. If you know that you can't deliver, why do you remain in that position?"

Shiceka warned that if officials did not do their jobs, they would be removed "because they can't be bigger than the people they serve".

In Mpumalanga, the provincial department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs is seeking legal opinion on section 57 managers who were employed without proper qualifications. Investigations will also be conducted around the resignations of the Municipal Manager and the Chief Financial Officer, to determine whether there are no monies owed to the municipality.

According to Shiceka, once local government starts rendering services effectively, responsively, efficiently and it is accountable to the public, it will become the pride of all South Africans.

Godfrey Mokate, from the University of Johannesburg's Department of Public Management, believes that local government should be more service orientated and not focus on policy and legislation review alone.

"I strongly believe that municipal officials must be properly equipped with training to perform their jobs effectively. We've Batho Pele principle's which provides a policy and legislative framework for service delivery in the public sector.

"We need to prioritise skills development and municipalities should be resourced in order to build the local economy in communities.

"Municipalities need to promote self-reliance by helping citizens to solve their own problems, rather than solving problems for them, work with residents in initiating projects that will create jobs to local residents " he said.

Limpopo MEC for Local Government and Housing, Soviet Lekganyane said although much still needed to be done in his province, municipalities, through their ward councillors had not lost touch with what is happening on the ground.

"We can't wait for the major revamp of legislations and policies in local government to take place so that we can increase our speed of accelerating service delivery to our people," he said.

Siyabonga Memela, from the Institute for Democracy in Africa (Idasa), said to deal with the situation effectively and to prevent potential social unrest, municipalities needed to improve their governance.

Memela said municipalities should also provide residents with tools and resources to change their own situation by becoming facilitators and catalysts rather than being implementers.

He said: "Municipalities must be more responsive to residents, encouraging participation beyond the compulsory moments and pro-actively seeking to engage with the most disempowered people in society."

Ekurhuleni Executive Mayor Ntombi Mekgwe said communication with both councillors and residents was seen as minimal. This was something that should change, and communication should also be kept simple.

Cllr Linah Malatjie of Emalahleni local municipality said her council would be more responsive to its residents and would actively seek to engage with poor communities.

"From now onwards, we are going to be more transparent about decision processes in order to be accountable to citizens," she said.

Meanwhile, the indaba came out with ground breaking resolutions and declarations of commitment which would be central to the local government turnaround strategy due for completion in December this year.

The declaration noted that community protests that break out in the country constantly convey the need for all municipalities to act swiftly and decisively to ensure that local government is more effective.

"Ultimately, the failures of local government are the failures of the cooperative governance system as a whole, and we call for more efficient, effective and cohesive cooperative governance in this country," said the declaration.