George Mari, MPP
DA KZN Spokesperson on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs
A RECENT oversight visit by the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) and members of the KZN COGTA portfolio committee to some of KwaZulu-Natal’s more far flung municipalities has revealed severe deficiencies, to the extent that both committees have appealed to government’s newly established Municipal Infrastructure Support Agency (MISA) to immediately assist with funding for the provision of water, electricity and sanitation to communities.
The visit, conducted last week within the Uthekela, Abaqulusi,Edumbe,uPongola,and Umkhanyakude districts has highlighted an absence of skills and capacity, with major deficiencies found within leadership, governance and financial controls – all of which is directly impacting on the ability to deliver basic services. Fraud, corruption, maladministration and unauthorized and fruitless expenditure are rife and municipalities have very little cash to survive due to poor collection rates and a lack of a revenue base. The visit has also revealed a lack of oversight by councilors, while “jobs for pals” and the flouting of SCM processes are endemic, with councilors awarding tenders. Despite this, little punitive action is taken against officials found to have plundered municipal coffer. The DA views with the suspension of municipal managers, chief financial officers and other senior managers on full pay as unacceptable. There are also far too many “acting” positions and officials must immediately deal with this growing trend. At Indaka, the municipality is onto its fourth administrator following problems of co-operation with previous administrators. This municipality had an adverse report from the Auditor-General in 2010 and a disclaimer last year.
It is clear that the disestablishment of Umsekeli Support Services, despite earlier warnings by the DA, is a contributing factor. One of the many problems identified as result of this move is the increased use of consultants, by municipalities, particularly for the preparation of financial reports. This is a costly exercise which must be stamped out. Other problems include poor debt control and the absence of an indigent register, which is contributing to rising municipal debt.
The future for these municipalities looks very bleak unless something drastic is done soon.