The Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) is of the view that municipal councils are abdicating their executive authority by not actively fighting corruption and leaving it up to the MEC to institute Section 106 of the Municipal Structures Act investigations. This, according to the committee, is undesirable and must be stopped with immediate effect.
The committee made this observation following its interaction with uMgungundlovu District Municipality, Richmond Local Municipality and Mpofana Local Municipality as part of its oversight in KwaZulu-Natal to assess the state of municipalities and provision of services.
With all three municipalities, the committee considers it unacceptable that despite allegations of fraud, corruption and successive negative audits, appetite for consequence management remains low with no or limited proactive investigations despite the presence of both administrative and legislative oversight bodies that must actively fight acts of corruption.
Regarding uMgungundlovu District Municipality, the committee highlighted its concern with information that the municipality was awarding contracts without a proper bid adjudication process. According to the committee, this creates an environment that encourages corruption to flourish. Also, the committee raised concern that no reasonable steps were taken to prevent unauthorised expenditure of R45.45 million. Furthermore, despite spending R1.98 million on consultants for financial reporting, there was no improvement in the quality of financial statements.
The committee also highlighted concerns regarding the district municipality's lack of interest in establishing a Disaster Management Centre that meets the standard as set out by the Disaster Management Act. "We cannot continue treating issues of disaster management as a tick-box exercise, thus putting at risk the lives of the people, a majority of them poor. The Covid-19 period has emphasised the need to have a quality Disaster Management Centre that services the people of the area," said Ms Faith Muthambi, the Chairperson of the committee.
It is also unacceptable that the municipality spend only 0,001% in infrastructure maintenance for the 2018/19 financial year, which is below the national treasury norm of 8%. The consequence of this is the rapid deterioration of the infrastructure and high water losses, leading to high non-revenue water.
Regarding Mpofana Local Municipality, the committee was critical of the fact that senior management positions have been vacant since 2014. While the committee welcomes the recent appointment of a municipal manager, the committee has called for speedy appointment of skilled senior managers to effectively run the municipality and provide quality services to the people. Similarly, no reasonable steps were taken to prevent R93.05 million of irregular expenditure, R3.54 of fruitless and wasteful expenditure, and R170 million in unauthorised expenditure.
Regarding Richmond Municipality, the committee raised concerns about information that the Municipal Infrastructure Grant and the Integrated National Electrification Programme were not spend for their intended purpose. This undermines the provision of specific services at the expense of the residents of the area.
The committee appreciates the work the provincial department of Cogta has been doing and calls on the South African Local Government Association to urgently work with these municipalities to address areas of concern and ensure that people receive quality services.