Local government in KZN – the chickens have come home to roost

By George Mari, MPL, DA KZN Spokesperson on COGTA:

LOCAL government in KZN has never been in such a mess before – the only good news is that there is some improvement in the Audit outcomes.

The situation is so bad that the national Minister wants Local Government to ‘go back to basics’. This is an indictment on Municipal Managers, CFO’s and Senior Managers.

Twenty years under the ANC and what do we have to show for it?  Out of control corruption, blatant flouting of SCM policies to enrich the corrupt elite, fraud, corruption and mismanagement with infighting by ANC cadres in an attempt to get to the feeding trough, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure with no consequences,  under-spending of capital spending and conditional grants. Here the DA agrees with the MEC that “this is of grave concern”.

According to the Premier, there are 3million people in KZN alone who are living below the bread line.  While this is happening, there are municipal officials who are gorging themselves on Nando’s and KFC to the value of more than R100 000.

The chickens have indeed come home to roost!

The DA has looked into the benefits of whether the use of consultants, while simultaneously having Municipal Managers and CFO’s in employment, is benefitting municipalities.  With regard to consultants, the last figures supplied by the Department show that they are a wasteful expenditure.

Incompetent cadres in senior positions are running KZN municipalities into the ground. In Mooi Mpofana while councillors were fired, officials who colluded with them got off scot- free.

A parliamentary reply to the DA has also established that despite numerous forensic investigations being conducted within KZN municipalities over the past two years, not one has yet been concluded with no disciplinary action taken against any officials accused of wrongdoing.

The reply shows that there are currently 21 forensic investigations underway within nine different municipalities – Umkhanyakude, Endumeni, Newcastle, Umhlathuze, Jozini, Mfolozi, Uphongola, Amajuba and Nongoma.

The same reply also reveals a troubling discrepancy in the cost of these investigations with the reply highlighting an inconclusive summary of the cost of each individual investigation.  Jozini for example has spent a staggering half a million rand while other municipalities have not incurred any cost whatsoever during these investigations.

This raises serious questions around the reliability of this information and the DA will submit a further question to MEC Dube-Ncube in order to ascertain the facts.  We also insist that she suspend any councillors or other officials currently under investigation with immediate effect.  Forensic investigations are little to no use if they are not used to root out corruption.

The number of community protests in KZN has increased significantly due to failed service delivery.

The basics of water, electricity, sanitation and housing remain a luxury for far too many. Meanwhile informal settlements are mushrooming in urban areas and municipalities cannot control this urban spread for fear of protests.

The DA has called for a skills audit to establish “Fitness for Purpose” within the KZN COGTA department and municipalities– the MEC must tell us whether this has been done.

There is a situation in Nkabatini where the Municipal Manager appointed was an Admin Clerk in the Department of Transport. How could this have happened?  He must have had a good connection.

KZN municipalities were carrying debt to the value of R12.2billion as at the end of September 2014.  Of this, 77.1 percent are over 90 days.  This begs the question – will this debt ever be collected?  And how does Treasury plan to deal with this?  Will it be written off?  If we take away the irrecoverable debt, many municipalities will be either cash strapped or bankrupt.

The DA agrees with the MEC that there is a legitimate cry for improved service delivery and this government must stop finding excuses for incompetence.

The question is – where are we heading for with municipalities failing to deliver to the poor?

The truth is that we are very close to anarchy. Ongoing violent protest action in communities such as Richmond and Muden are a case in point.

To sum up this budget, the buck stops with the MEC.

The DA again calls on her to expedite the process of a skills audit so that senior officials in particular are fit for purpose.

If the MEC needs any lessons on this I will gladly arrange a visit to the Western Cape which has shown just how to deliver, having achieved the best run municipality and best run province.