South Africa: State of Gauteng Municipalities Concerns Committee

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The Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) is concerned by the general state of municipalities in Gauteng. The areas of concern include high vacancy rates for senior manager positions, dysfunctional municipal public accounts committees (MPACs), high water and electricity loses, and investigations and consequence management into unauthorised, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

"The general picture of functionality of municipalities in the province is concerning and impacts directly on the ability of municipalities in providing quality services to the people of the province, as advocated in Section 152 of the Constitution. This concerning picture requires collaborative effort in ensuring that we make municipalities viable vehicles to deliver services to the people," said Ms Faith Muthambi, the Chairperson of the committee.

Despite this, the committee appreciates the commitment highlighted by the provincial government in offering support to municipalities, as per Section 154 of the Constitution. The committee encourages further support by both national and provincial government to municipalities to ensure their financial viability.

Regarding the high vacancy rate, while the committee acknowledges that of the 11 municipalities only four municipal manager positions are vacant. However, the high vacancy rate of supporting senior manager posts is a concern. In City of Johannesburg there is a 42% vacancy rate, Sedibeng has a 50% vacancy rate, Lesedi and West Rand are at 33% vacancy rate, and Merafong is standing at 42%. This rate can be attributed to the lack of strategic direction and lack financial prudence in those municipalities. While the committee acknowledges challenges in recruiting adequately skilled personnel for those positions, it believes these challenges can be overcome.

The committee is concerned that of the 11 municipalities, five municipalities' MPACs have not approved the 2019/20 annual plan. This undermines their critical oversight role and is reflected in the backlog in investigating unauthorised, irregular, fruitless and wasteful (UIFW) expenditure. The committee has called on the councils of Ekurhuleni, City of Tshwane, West Rand and Midvaal to conclude and approve their MPAC annual plans.

Furthermore, the committee is concerned that only 55% of municipalities are compliant in approving the oversight report, as per Section 129 of the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA). This undermines good governance and must be rectified immediately.

High water and electricity loses are another area of concern. These loses put pressure on the cash flow balances and contribute to poor service delivery. It is unsustainable to have water losses of R1 386 000 000 in Johannesburg, R1 051 432 369 in Tshwane and R1 002 005 635 in Ekurhuleni. The committee has urged municipalities to deal with customers who access water services illegally, address inaccurate billing to increase payment and fix ageing infrastructure.

The committee has also called on municipalities to urgently address the high number of councillors in arrears. Of the eight municipalities reporting councillors in arrears amounting to R1 720 858 in total, only Merafong has no councillors in arrears. This fosters a general culture of non-payment, as residents follow the example set by councillors. Public representatives have a moral and societal responsibility to pay for services.

Government debt to municipalities is also a concern and requires urgent attention from both provincial and national government if the culture of non-payment is to be overcome.

Regarding UIFW expenditure, the committee is concerned that in Gauteng 77% of unauthorised expenditure for the 2018/19 financial year and prior years is still to be addressed, as per Section 32 of the MFMA. This equates to an amount of R7 276 714 710, which supports the perception of lack of consequence management. It is unacceptable that in the City of Johannesburg, UIFW expenditure increased from R1,2 billion in the 2014/15 financial year to R3,07 billion in the 2018/19 financial year. In West Rand, the aggregated UIFW expenditure incurred for the 2018/19 financial year is R149,7 million. R92,09 million (61%) of the amount has not been investigated. In Mogale City, unauthorised expenditure amounts to R166,3 million in the 2019/20 financial year. The committee calls for the urgent completion of the investigation and implementation of consequence management against those in the wrong and recovery of finances where possible.

The committee continues to call for collaboration between national, provincial and local government together with the South African Local Government Association to find workable and lasting solutions to challenges within the local government sphere.

The committee will today engage the City of Tshwane to assess service delivery to the people of area.

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