COGTA department performance is measured by community satisfaction

George Mari, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on COGTA

The performance of the KZN COGTA department is measured by how satisfied communities are. As the province with the highest number of service delivery protests in the last few years it is safe to say that the department is failing dismally on its mandate.

The example of leadership not taking responsibility for compliance quickly spreads throughout the organisation, giving rise to a poor work ethic which is ultimately evidenced by frustration in the community and which easily translates to service delivery demonstrations.

Something has gone horribly wrong when the promise from the ANC-led provincial government – that all KZN municipalities will achieve clean audits by 2014 – is little more than a distant dream.  Instead we are faced with municipalities in a chaotic state as corruption, fraud, mismanagement, nepotism, theft, unauthorised, irregular and wasted expenditure become the hallmark of audits.

The Auditor General’s Report on the audit outcomes for the Province 2012/2013 recently tabled in this house makes dismal reading in many cases.   I quote one under the heading Key Controls and Root Causes:

“The overall deterioration in the key controls was caused by leadership’s slow response and oversight, the lack of consequence management and limited progress being made to address governance weaknesses”.

The question is – is KZN’s COGTA department serious about the financial health of our municipalities?   Deployees, in many instances, are holding posts without any intention of qualifying in compliance in accordance with Minimum Competency Regulations.  Yet no action is taken- apart from an extension to the Regulation’s deadline – 8 years now since promulgation.   It is time to hold leadership accountable for the derogation of their duties.

Another critical area is the failure to hold wrongdoers to account.  Very few have been criminally charged, very few have been dismissed.  Most just get a slap on the wrist with a final warning and are told to pay back any outstanding monies. Why is it that these comrades are known and yet protected?

The MEC must;

–          Name and shame these individuals

–          Blacklist them from working within the provincial  government – most simply resign and move onto other departments or provinces where they continue to rob the public purse.

The DA agrees with the Auditor-General’s comment, that there is a massive amount of work to be done following the KZN municipalities findings for the 2012/13 financial year.  We expect the MEC to take his recommendations seriously and to implement them.  We are also not satisfied with these outcomes given the level of intervention by the department within municipalities.  Further, the use of consultants to prop up incompetent Municipal Managers and senior staff who still don’t achieve a clean audit is also unacceptable.

The AG’s latest opinion predominantly relates to material misstatements, in non-current assets, current assets and unauthorised, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure. There were 57 municipalities with material errors – a shocking 79% – while a total of 58% of the corrections had to be made during the audit.

This begs the question – will the accounting officer face disciplinary action?

The MEC also needs to answer for the monthly and in-year monitoring functions.  What we need is skills development and capacitation of senior managers who are failing in their jobs.

There was also no improvement in supply chain management corruption levels – the number of municipalities which reported findings remained the stagnant at 76%.  Key problem areas include competitive bidding, awards to employees in the service of the state, contracts to ANC cronies, family members and relatives. The problem lies in inadequate contract and Human Resource Management where there has been an increase from 31% in the previous year to 60%.

The other shock findings of the Auditor General were;

–          Municipal Financial Health – the number of auditees that have problems relating to “going Concern” increased from 12 to 16.

–          The provision of water and sanitation services. More standpipes must be provided closer to homes. Municipalities have failed to provide clean running water to a large portion of the population in the province.

The DA calls on the MEC to ensure that the following municipalities receive special attention;

      Water             Electricity        Sanitation

eMadlangeni                59%                     48%                    84%

Harry Gwala District         65%                      63%                   97%

Ingwe                                   58%                      50%                    96%     

Umzimkhulu                       53%                      65%                    97%

Umkhanyakude                 62%                      38%                   80%

Hlabisa                                55%                       43%                     93%

Jozini                                   29%                        58%                    76%

Nongoma                            46%                        64%                    69%

 

Other issues which the MEC must address include;

–          Municipalities under administration for years – Mtubatuba is an example

–          Small Towns Rehabilitation – under-spend and a cut in funding

–          The subsequent impact on investment/ job creation/ local Economic Development

–          Escalating debts within municipalities and the long-term sustainability of these municipalities

–          Disaster Management – most municipalities are unprepared for disasters with only about two personnel

–          The establishment of municipal pounds – animals on our roads continue to be the cause of many accidents.

The Democratic Alliance’s challenge to the MEC today is that the Department of Co-operative governance and Traditional Affairs exercise strong oversight over Local government and exhibit a willingness to act on those found to be transgressors.

However much of our budget we throw at this vital sphere of government, it will be of no use unless there is visible accountability – not just ticking boxes to appear compliant.