Shiceka aims to turn local govt around

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cape Town - Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Sicelo Shiceka says he wants to turn local government into a "responsive, efficient, effective and accountable" structure.

Speaking during a Governance and Administration cluster briefing in Cape Town, the minister said the Local Government Turnaround Strategy, aimed at helping municipalities achieve this, would be formulated by December.

"From January to March next year, it must be discussed and implemented at municipal level," he said.

An Intergovernmental Working Group comprising representatives of key national sector departments, provincial Heads of Department responsible for Local Government and the South Africa Local Government Association (SALGA) had been established to finalise the draft strategy.

Provinces and municipalities would also be expected to set up their own Municipal Turnaround Strategy Coordinating Committees to perform an oversight role.

In recent months, violent protests have broken out in communities across the country. Residents have mostly demanded better services at local government level. While condemning violence, the country's leadership also conceded that some of the grievances were genuine and needed urgent attention.

President Jacob Zuma and his Cabinet members have made visits to communities across the country to hear about the residents' grievances first hand and come up with remedies where possible.

Shiceka urged municipal officials to look at ways to improve operations on the ground. "We must respond to issues before people go to the streets."

He emphasised the importance of accountability and oversight in order to successfully manage municipalities.

Further to this, the minister said a draft strategy for revenue enhancement and debt collection had been completed to assist municipalities collect the R54 billion owed them by businesses, households and the government.

He believed the initiative, to be launched next month, would go a long way in placing municipalities on a stable footing.

Communities would be mobilised around the slogan "you use, you pay".

He said the main aim of the campaign would be to address management challenges faced municipalities to help them achieve clean audits by 2014.

In this light, Shiceka said Operation Clean Audit Coordinating Committees has been disseminated to all provinces to assist coordination between Offices of the Premier, SALGA, departments responsible for Local Government, and Provincial Treasuries as well as other strategic partners.

These committees have been established by the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and North West provinces, while the remaining provinces will establish their Coordinating Committees before the end of November 2009.