James Masango MPL
Provincial Chief Whip of the Official Opposition.
The DA congratulates the Steve Tshwete and Victor Khanye local municipalities for obtaining unqualified audit reports from the Auditor-General (AG) for the 2010/11 financial years, but remains deeply concerned that these seem to be the only two local municipalities able to do so.
While cooperative governance and traditional affairs (COGTA) MEC Madala Masuku rightly expressed his pride in the two local and two district municipalities who have managed clean audits, very little intervention was promised in those which consistently underperformed. Chief Albert Luthuli, Dr JS Moroka, Pixley Ka Seme, Umjindi and Thaba Chweu local municipalities all received disclaimers in the 2009/10 audits (Chief Albert Luthuli submitted its records too late), only to receive the same again for 2010/11, and yet nothing seems to happen.
Thaba Chweu and Chief Albert Luthuli municipalities have been in the throes of crisis for months now, with service delivery non-existent in Thaba Chweu (despite a DA complaint lodged with the Human Rights Commission and criminal investigations by the Hawks), and 17 000 residents without drinkable water in Carolina. One can only wonder to what extent a municipality must deteriorate, and how long thousands of residents have to suffer, before government decides to intervene.
The DA has for long been vocal about the ANC’s insistence on using municipalities to create ‘jobs for pals’, despite many not having the skills or competencies to do so. During a recent assessment on the health of municipalities and their ability to run their finances and deliver services, COGTA found that Mpumalanga’s municipalities missed each and every deadline to improve service delivery.
The assessment showed that municipalities suffer from poor governance and accountability, weak financial management, high vacancy rates, high infrastructure backlogs, and in certain instances, are unable to deliver basic services.
The time has now come for MEC Masuku to face the facts and admit that cadre deployment has failed, and that a full skills audit has to be conducted in each and every municipality, and that suitably qualified and competent individuals need to be employed. Furthermore, MEC Masuku must take the lead in appointing filling crucial vacancies, such as the five municipal managers, four chief financial officers and seven technical directors.
Municipal managers must not be allowed to be active members of any political party and must sign performance based agreements with measurable outcomes with councils.
The DA also hopes that MEC Masuku shows his and his department’s commitment to Operation Clean Audit 2014, by taking decisive action against accounting officers for unauthorised expenditure amounting to R384 million, irregular expenditure totalling R585 million and fruitless and wasteful expenditure amounting to R10 million. Proper financial management is crucial, and taxpayers demand that public funds go where they are intended.
Municipalities are at the forefront of service delivery, and need all the guidance and support government can offer. The people of Mpumalanga must not be neglected any longer.