Chairperson of Salga-KZN, Cllr V. Mdabe,
The PEC of Salga,
Ladies and gentlemen.
Programme Director, in view of the fact that this is our first formal meeting in the new year, I wish to start by wishing all our colleagues under the banner of SALGA-KZN a happy and a prosperous new year. Indeed I believe that 2013 is a year full of promise and new beginnings for all of us in the Cooperative Governance fraternity.
I am delighted to be invited to this Salga lekgotla, convened at a very crucial period in the history of our young democracy. It is 101 years of liberation, commemoration of a century of land dispossesion as well as the beginning of a century of a new struggle towards socio-economic freedom. Indeed a lot lies ahead of us in 2013.
It is therefore in the interest of all citizens of this province across the 61 municipalities to see KZN SALGA succeed because a strong SALGA inspires hope that the dreams of our people being freed from poverty, inequality and unemployment will be realised in their life time. Indeed, we believe that a strong and activist SALGA-KZN means viable local government which is a catalyst for economic growth, development and sustainable service delivery.
Makgotlas such as this one create space for us as development partners to reflect on the activities and commitments we have collectively made over periods of time, assess the impact of our actions and define the way forward. I trust this lekgotla will be no exception to this norm and as Cogta-KZN we are proud to be here to provide the necessary support to Salga as we accordingly contribute in our area of responsibility.
We have no doubt that from this gathering will flow streams of thoughts and ideas which will end into a confluence of a powerful force for change in the sphere of local government. As organised local government working with both provincial and national government, SALGA has a very important role in making sure that we support and strengthen municipalities so that they are able to deal with the challenges ahead of them and meet the expectations of our communities. Local government has a duty to shape the perceptions that people have of government.
Our input to this Lekgotla is based upon the broader theme of reviewing and repositioning local government so that it can effectively fulfil its mandate.
Ladies and gentlemen, this Lekgotla takes place 3 years after the Launch of the Operation Clean Audit 2014. It also marks the third anniversary of the adoption of the Local Government Turn-Around Strategy. I am mentioning these significant events because they afford us an opportunity to pause and assess whether the work we have done has made an impact or not, and also to develop pragmatic action plans in moving forward.
Programme Director, we have an opportunity at this lekgotla to analyse our environment and reflect on the real state of local government.
1. Local Government turnaround strategy
In our very own frank and honest assessment of the state of local government in 2009, collectively we concluded that local government was in distress and that a comprehensive turnaround was needed.
We referred to the challenges of huge service delivery backlogs, leadership and governance failures, corruption and fraud, poor financial management, insufficient capacity due to a lack of scarce skills, high vacancy rates, poor performance management and inadequate training. We came up with more creative responses to cure the ills affecting our municipalities. At this important interval we have an important question to answer: Has the situation turned around?
Indeed there will be mixed responses to this question. Some argue that very little progress has been recorded, and, there are those who are even bolder and suggest that we are at that point where we were when we decided on adopting a Local Government Turn-Around Strategy in 2009.
The latest performance assessment reports suggest that we have still to do more to build a model Municipality that will perform and coordinate activities to ensure effective service delivery to the people. This is the point where we were when we decided on the Local Government turn-around Strategy.
Chairperson, I subscribe to the notion that we cannot keep on doing the same things the same way even though results do not indicate any improvement.
2. Operation Clean Audit 2014
One of the key indicators that we use as a barometer to measure whether the turnaround strategy has worked or not, is through the goal of Operation Clean Audit 2014 and service delivery achievements.
By now I am sure we are all aware that the deadline for Operation Clean Audit 2014 is in 11 months' time. Judging by the latest audit performance by the province recently, clearly this goal has assumed even greater importance. In other words, we have exactly 11 months to ensure that the goal to deliver clean audits in all municipalities in the province is realised.
As we speak, 45 municipalities in the province received unqualified audit opinions with matters of emphasis. Some 8 municipalities received qualified audit opinions. Seven (7) municipalities received disclaimers. uMtshezi remained our only lodestar by retaining its clean audit for the second year running. Yes there are endogenous and exogenous circumstances that contributed to this state of affairs.
Clearly this audit picture is not doing the confidence of local government any good. We have an opportunity at this lekgotla to plant new ideas that will help institutionalise the culture of aspiring for clean governance. Critically, we have a chance to plant new seeds that will germinate and usher in a new era in the sphere of local government in the province.
Salga-KZN has a challenge to thoroughly interrogate the concerns raised by the Auditor-General as leading us to this regression. Indeed I will be happy to hear your members' action plans on how this picture will improve in the coming audit year.
I call upon Salga to take an active interest on these matters and ensure that there are consequences for administrators that transgress and perform poorly in managing our municipalities. As leaders, we need to react faster and exercise strong oversight.
As is always the case, year-on year our Achilles tendon remain:
supply chain management, which is showing a growing trend of irregular expenditure
IT controls, which show minimal improvement in terms of internal control
human resource management, which shows minimal improvement, as well as
Errors in financial statements.
3. Accelearting service delivery, Cabinet lekgotla resolutions
In his recent communication with the various citizens of our country, His Excellency President Jacob Zuma has called on government to "hasten the transformation of the economy in favour of the poor". The President called on government across all spheres to do something "drastic" to deal with unemployment, poverty and inequalities that continue to haunt our nation.
The question posed by the President's pronouncements to this lekgotla is what role can and should be played by the sphere of local government in the process of hastening the socio-economic development of our country and people.
By its very nature, local government is regarded as the implementers of development policies. The importance of the local government sphere is that it provides the institutional platform for national and provincial governments to advance and rollout their programmes. This clearly indicates that local government holds the key to the success or failure of all government programmes.
As leaders in local government, we need to ensure that the posture of our municipalities is strategically geared towards delivering on the new radical and transformative programmes of government.
This lekgotla has a daunting task ahead of itself. Next week, we will hold a Cabinet lekgotla where, as the sphere of Local Government, we are expected to indicate our state of readiness in ensuring that development is hastened within communities.
Cabinet is expecting answers on how far we have attended to the following questions raised at the last Cabinet lekgotla in 2012.
Operation Sukuma Sakhe
Has this programme been institutionalised in all municipalities. Are the war rooms functional in all wards in the province and have we provided the necessary infrastructure required for the sustenance of this programme?
Vacancies at Municipal level
How far have we gone in the filling of vacant section 56 posts? Building a capable and responsive state is the most critical priority area identified in the NDP and should, therefore, be given a significant amount of focus. We expect you to deliberate on this point and give us an update.
We need to reflect on this task and assess the progress we have made. I do understand that we have compiled a list of activities that we consider to be unfunded mandates. We must now move to phase two of this programme, which includes engaging with relevant departments. Cabinet also expect to receive a progress report on this assignment.
Water and energy provision
Together, we were tasked to develop Universal Access Plans. This lekgotla must examine progress made in this area. How far have we gone in attending to SCM problems which often are cited as responsible for the delays towards speedy provision of infrastructure to deliver services on the ground.
Have we developed annual procurement plans? Are bid committees doing their work?
We cannot justify roll-overs of budget when people are hungry for basic services.
I have highlighted some of the resolutions to underscore the importance of ensuring that they form part of the discussions and that this lekgotla helps us with a coordinated response.
Programme Director, history has placed a heavy but exciting burden on our shoulders as local government leaders, a task to reconstruct and develop our country and to transform South Africa into a country worthy of her people. In this regard, the ultimate yardstick with which to measure the success or failure of our system of local government is how well and how rapidly we transform the lives of our people through the sustainable provision of basic services end the unleashing of our economic development potential.
4. National Development Plan: Implications for Local Government
Recently all of us have been introduced to the National Development Plan, which has been drawn from the contribution of all sectors representing the South African society. The NDP is an embodiment of the aspirations of the citizen about the type of South Africa they want to see by 2030.
The National Development Plan from which we drew our own plan as the province of KwaZulu-Natal will be implemented in municipal spaces and requires collaboration between all sectors of society and effective leadership, particularly at local government level.
The plan clearly indicates that the process of transformation and bridging the economic and social chasm between sectors of our society is far from complete. This requires a business unusual approach as well as capable governance institutions that are ready to deliver.
The question we must pose is how ready we are to deliver on the national vision. This is a fundamental question that this lekgotla must answer. I submit programme director that from our vantage position, the challenge remains the unevenness in the capacity that leads to uneven performance among municipalities.
This is caused by a milieu of factors including weak political oversight and administration, tensions between political leadership and administrators, skills deficit, poor accountability mechanism and poor organisational designs. The weaknesses in our local government system are more glaring in historically disadvantaged areas where interventions are needed the most to improve the quality of life.
Programme Director, I submit that for the 2030 vision, as articulated by the President, to be realised and for the notorious triple challenges in poverty, inequality and unemployment to be addressed, we need to make our municipal institutions transformative and really developmental in practice.
The 2030 vision requires a capable and developmental local government. Capable in that it has the capacity to implement programmes and overcome challenges and root causes of poverty, inequality and unemployment. We envision KwaZulu-Natal as a prosperous province with a healthy, secure and skilled population, acting as a gateway to Africa and the world. All stakeholders of KwaZulu-Natal must sing from this hym book, which fully aligns with the National Development Plan.
Critically, this plan marks a new departure in the trajectory of our country. For the first time in the 18 years of a free South Africa, we now know what kind of society we want to build.
More importantly, this plan comes at the time when government is taking the bull by its horns - by investing more than R300 billion in infrastructure development projects in the country.
At the time when many developed economies globally are crying out for bail outs, we are in a fortunate position because we have a government that has put its money where its mouth is, by investing in the infrastructure of her people. The question that we have to ask today is that given this new trajectory of a government that is increasingly intervening in the economy, what is the role of municipalities?
We have always argued that the time has come for us to create municipalities which are citadels of economic growth and development, municipalities which are not only concerned with being the conveyor belt of service delivery but which are contributing
to a greater goal of growing the economy of the country. It would be unfortunate that at the time when the country is moving towards a new phase of growth and development, our municipalities are not in sync with what is happening around them. The reality is that all these plans that government has unveiled will happen in municipalities, therefore, municipalities should begin to incorporate them in their planning.
Programme Director, clearly, service cannot be delivered without people with the necessary skills. Our provincial government has developed a dedicated objective on Human Resource Development. We need to get as many people as possible to be socially and economically productive. It must be stated upfront that this will not be by accident - key decisions will have to be taken and implemented by the state for the right numbers to be enrolled in appropriate programmes at the right time.
Local government is critical in ensuring that all institutions of learning from Early Childhood Development Centres to schools and FETs have access to necessary infrastructure that is conducive to learning and teaching. We are building a state that will grow the economy, reduce poverty and improve the quality of life of our citizens. Unemployment has been identified as one of the major structural constraints within the province, and it contributes to high levels of poverty and income inequality, which deteriorates the overall quality of life of the people of the province.
High unemployment results in high dependency ratios, with many more people relying on fewer wage earners. This has resulted in the phenomenon of large numbers of working households living near or below the poverty line.
Currently, an unequally large proportion of the population of KZN relies on grants and related forms of welfare as a source of income. As they are forced to migrate to urban centres, hoping to get employment, the consequent reality is that they are indirectly upsetting municipal programs for service delivery and fighting infrastructure backlogs.
For the National Development Plan to succeed, local government is invited into a deep and durable partnership. The National and Provincial Planning Commissions can, at best, do high level strategic planning, but that will be barren without an active and dynamic energy from local government engaged in the terms of the Municipal Systems Act, doing the detailed, bottom-up planning. We need to have local plans
and programmes that complement provision of strategic infrastructure that is articulated in our provincial PGDS and national Strategic Infrastructure Programmes (SIPs). I am aware that all Districts have been hard at work preparing a Service Delivery Plan that supports Growth and Development. My department has invested support into this process with the aim of refining and strengthening these plans.
I trust that by the time the District Growth and Development Summits take place, the focus of such summits will revolve around the service delivery plans and economic development.
We needed to regain the confidence of the general public about this sphere of government. Most municipalities have articulated their approaches as part of their Turn Around Strategies.
Therefore, through municipal Turn around Strategies, municipalities have already:
Described their desired 2030 outcomes
Agreed on the set of indicators that will be applied to measure progress
Agreed on the targets and growth trajectory in respect of each of the indicators
Agreed on the strategic interventions required to achieve the set targets
Described the catalytic projects in support of the interventions, where possible
Agreed on the monitoring, evaluation, reporting and review framework of the plan.
All I ask from you is persistent leadership that is never prepared to compromise these noble development goals. This conference has a very critical task ahead. Also among the issues that this conference will have to look into are:
Enhancing strategies to capacitate municipalities to deliver faster on their mandate;
Ensure coordinated and integrated planning among all role players in this sphere of government;
Position local government as a catalyst for economic growth;
Strengthen the communication system at local government level to maximise public participation;
Strengthen good governance practices and devise strategies to obliterate corruption at local government.
Ladies and gentlemen, the challenges that we face in our fledgling system of local government are massive, but conditions have never been this favourable for the realisation of our goal of a prosperous, peaceful and democratic South Africa. We must count ourselves among the most blessed local government practitioners to be serving our people at this important epoch of our democracy.
A seasoned Nigerian author, Ben Okri, once said: "You must not cease from mental fight nor should you allow your sword to sleep in your hand." Therefore, let us all use the next two days of this lekgotla to engage each other in mental fight and sharpen our swords in order to transform and improve our system of local government so that it can work better for the good of all of our people.
In conclusion, I invite the SALGA-KZN Lekgotla to define an ideal municipality with a view to help us all work towards a common benchmark.
I thank you!
Issued by: KwaZulu-Natal Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs