Department of CoGTA is a sinking ship

By Bosman Grobler, MPL:

The following speech was delivered in the Mpumalanga Legislature today by the DA’s spokesperson on CoGTA, Bosman Grobler MPL, during the tabling and debate on Policy Budget of the Department of CoGTA. Vote 4

Hon Speaker,

Hon MEC you are the captain of a sinking ship.

Local government in Mpumalanga is in the worst state it has ever been. Municipalities have lost their ability to protect their citizens. And municipalities have lost their ability to provide job opportunities for their citizens. I say this because I had a first-hand experience last night, when both Hon Benadie and I became victims of crime, when our laptops were stolen outside the Crossing Spar on our way back home after the sitting.

So bad is local government, that Minister Gordon ordered the publication of section 26 notices to amalgamate 10 municipalities in Mpumalanga into 5. Sighting financial viability as reason for the amalgamation, he proves that local government is not in a healthy state. He could have used many other reasons for the proposed amalgamation. I can think of poor service delivery, inability to deliver on mandates and collapse of infrastructure in municipalities.

Hon Speaker,

We all know what I am talking about. It is even clearer when you hear ANC members of the committee lead with the department in meetings. “Please, next year is local government elections, and we cannot lose this one.” It is this department that is at the coal face of service delivery in Mpumalanga. If this department does not perform, it is public representatives who stand embarrassed when they campaign for votes.

Hon MEC, if it makes you feel any better, you have my sympathy.  You have been mandated to do political oversight in municipalities, but you have to work with egocentric cadres who are in the most only there for personal gain.  As the saying goes, “Too many chief and too little Indians”. This is the situation in our municipalities nowadays. Luckily, there should be a cabinet shuffle soon, and you will be relieved of the responsibility of trying to resuscitate a corpse.

Before I speak about specific programmes, I would like to make general comments on the budget we are debating.

  • Municipalities are underspending their Municipal Infrastructure Grants – the nett result of this is money sent back to Treasury, and a smaller allocation the next year. We know the consequence, yet we don’t put pressure on municipalities to spend on infrastructure.
  • The other extreme of this is the fact that municipalities use funds allocated for infrastructure development for the day to day operational cost of a municipality.
  • Another concern is the huge proportional increase in percentage spent on salaries. This is very concerning, even if it is as a result of a smaller nett allocation. The smaller net allocation is due to the fact that municipalities are not spending on capital projects.
  • There is also poor monitoring and evaluation mechanism of CDW’s with regards to their roles and responsibilities.
  • Increasing debts to Eskom and Rand Water, although this is a short sentence, it has a huge impact on residents of Mpumalanga. I want to make it clear that it is of utmost importance to ensure that there are systems and structures in place to ensure that these invoices are paid timeously.

To speak specifically about every programme:

The total budget allocation for the department of COGTA is R443 898 000 for the 2015/16 financial year.

Programme 1 (Administration)

  • The total budget allocation for this programme is R111 771 000 – the programme has set 64 targets.

Programme 2 (Local Governance)

  • The total budget allocation for this programme is R152 978 000 – the programme has 722 planned targets.
  • The role of CDW’s is still unclear – the department has failed to make provision of increasing CDW’s in the current financial year. There continues to be a concern that the payment of CDW’s will result in fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
  • There continues to be a lack of monitoring of municipalities especially because municipalities are indebted to Rand Water and Eskom. This is notwithstanding the fact the department also owes Rand Water a sum of R21 million.

Programme 3 (Development and Planning)

  • The total budget allocation for this programme Is R61 860 000 for the 2015/16 financial year. The programme has 24 582 planned targets.
  • It must be noted with concern that the department has increased its compensation of employees from 37% to 70%. This raises questions about the department’s commitment to meet its targets, when most of its budget is dedicated to compensation of employees.
  • According to the Auditor General reflect a 10% under spending of conditional grants by 50% of municipalities – this has resulted in a lack of operations and maintenance of existing infrastructure.
  • The programme does not provide reasons as to why their planned targets are silent on the collection of payments for municipal services from affording households. This has been one of the factors that have led to many municipalities owing/indebted to service providers.
  • The DA welcomes the Integrated Municipal Support Plan; however this initiative seems to be moving in a very slow pace. We can only hope that this plan will be able to assist municipalities to pay for infrastructure upgrades and maintenance.

Programme 4 (Traditional Institution Management)

  • The total budget allocation for this programme R100 811 000 for the 2015/16 financial year. There continues to be lack of coordination and communication between traditional leaders and municipal officials/municipalities.

Programme 5 (House of Traditional Leaders)

  • The total budget allocation for this programme R16 478 000 – there are 73 planned targets for this programme.

Hon Speaker,

Let me finish by asking the MEC, and perhaps in absentia the Premier, on behalf of the residents of Mpumalanga. It is unacceptable that only 9 out of 21 municipal managers comply with the minimum competency levels as set out by National Treasury. Please appoint capable, skilled, qualified and equipped administrative personal in municipalities across the province. Do not use our municipalities as a reward for political loyalty or a dumping ground for worn out politicians.

This department needs excellent performance in order to improve every aspect of basic needs for the residents in our province.

I thank you.