KZN COGTA Debate – ANC is failing KwaZulu-Natal citizens

George Mari, MPP

DA KZN Spokesperson on COGTA

The DA is not satisfied with the COGTA budget allocation, which again has a small increase and with it a cut in the baseline budget. The Department has also, again, under spent its budget by R1.5 million, which is not good given the state of Local Government in this province.  It could easily have been spent on assisting communities affected by disasters.

There is no excuse for under expenditure in this department. I am sure the CFO is going to put his head on the block for the third time in promising a 100 percent spend.  While the department has performed well by assisting municipalities to perform well, these municipalities have failed dismally to comply with the basic requirements such as financial management and service delivery.

The DA fully agrees with the Auditor General’s Office, that Operation Clean Audit by 2014 is a distant dream. While the DA applauds the MEC’s many interventions in failing municipalities, very little improvement has been seen in the areas of municipal financial performance and compliance.

Never in the history of this province has Local Government been in such a shambolic state. Ten percent of KZN municipalities are under administration – the highest number ever – proof that the ANC is failing in this province.

In the previous financial year six KZN municipalities achieve clean audits – the reward was a huge party and awards ceremony, to which every municipality was invited.  This financial year only one municipality, out of 61 municipalities, obtained a clean audit. Five of the 6 Municipalities that received clean Audits in 2011 regressed.  Certainly, the celebratory party did not work to inspire better performance.

What went wrong?!

In the DA-led Western Cape you will not find a single municipality under formal administration.  Western Cape municipalities typically spend 99% of the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) allocations. This means, that every cent allocated towards these infrastructure projects gets spent on the identified project and is spent on time.

Our congratulations must be offered to the Umtshezi municipality for obtaining a clean audit.  The presentation they made to the Portfolio Committee Meeting should be circulated to other municipalities to enable them to get their basics right.

We are, however, disappointed that a proper effective plan has not been put together following the collapse of, the dysfunctional state of and the many qualified audits and disclaimers within so many municipalities.  The department and Treasury do their utmost, going into municipalities to set up systems, yet nothing is implemented after they leave.

An alarming 17 KwaZulu-Natal municipalities are under the administration of acting municipal managers, while 19 – almost a third of the total number – have acting chief financial officers.  The DA believes that a skills audit needs to be conducted at every municipality to ascertain whether Municipal managers, chief financial officers and other senior managers have the required skills and experience to perform their duties.

This is what the DA calls “Fit for Purpose”. According to Census 2011 data, the Western Cape is the top performer in the provision of basic services.  More that 99 percent of its residents have access to piped water, 91.1 percent have refuse removal, 93.4 percent electricity and 96.9 percent had toilet facilities.  Perhaps the Portfolio Committee should go on a study tour to the City of Cape Town to learn some best practice.

Let me come to the Manase Report. This is where the MEC has failed.  Clearly ANC politicians are being protected. Can the Honourable MEC categorically deny that no ANC councillors are implicated in the report?

Political intolerance and in-fighting between alliance partners, as the need for greed increases, are also crippling municipalities.

The DA commends the MEC for her stance on performance bonuses. They must be earned for good performance. That municipal officials pay themselves bonuses without an evaluation is unacceptable.

Municipal debt in the province has reached crisis level with the current outstanding debt allegedly owed by province to Msunduzi municipality alone some R84 million.  Equally alarming are the denials by provincial department spokespersons that monies are owed and that any amounts quoted are currently under dispute.  This is a highly problematic situation.  It means that either municipal billing systems are extremely unreliable or provincial departments are reneging on paying their bills.  Either way, the matter has dragged on for almost a decade and the MEC needs to find a solution.

Another major issue which the MEC must tackle is that of councillor debt for rates and services which has reached a staggering R1.7 million. This is completely unacceptable.

By now the department must realise that fraud, corruption, mismanagement, nepotism and cadre deployment, where incompetent party supporters are put into positions where they cannot perform, are at the heart of the problem.  The lack of skills, experience, integrity, competence and commitment to serve is lacking, resulting in municipalities not being able to perform on their mandate.

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