BUILDING A SINGLE, COHERENT, LOCAL GOVERNMENT THAT CATERS FOR ALL CITIZENS
It is a great honour and a welcome opportunity to address you as we reflect on local government two weeks before South Africans go to the polls in the local government elections on November 1.
We have gathered at the historic and legendary Ongoye not to tick any boxes, but because here at this institution lies the hope of our country and future of local government.
Working with the pool of talent here, we can live up to a dream of a developmental local government that delivers dignified, quality services while addressing the root causes of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
This event on Reflections on Local Government provides an opportunity and a platform that will get players in the Local Government sphere to deliberate on the challenges and the successes that should be benchmarked in sister municipalities across the Province.
Local government is about the future of our country, and as such, our engagement must help provide the strategic direction to the new term of local government.
We noted in the 20 Year and 25 Year SA Review Reports the milestones that we have achieved since our democratic breakthrough to create a single, coherent, local government that serve all South African citizens equitably regardless of their race, ethnicity, or economic status.
In 1994, we inherited a fragmented, undemocratic, unaccountable and racially divided governance system.
It consisted of homeland administrations, national and provincial administrations, as well as separate administrations for certain racial and ethnic groups.
History shows us that the homeland administrations were poorly organised and resourced, largely without local government, and the services they provided were determined by the oppressive apartheid regime.
Because of colonial segregation and apartheid, those municipalities that were well capacitated were mostly in the urban areas and served mainly the needs of the white minority.
Before 1994, the frameworks governing the public service were highly centralised and regulated, resulting in a paternalistic, bureaucratic, hostile, and unresponsive public service.
Local government, where it existed, lacked transparency and accountability. It provided opportunity for corruption and space for abuse of office.
The democratic state under the ANC succeeded in amalgamating the uncoordinated apartheid-era institutions into a single, non-racial, non-sexist democratic system that serves all South Africans, not a privileged few.
Working together, we have altered the systems of governance to be geared towards transformation and to be people-centred.
As an ANC-led government we have worked hard to bring historically marginalised people into the mainstream of society – we have focused on the provision decent homes, decent schooling, decent health care facilities and access to all basic services.
In KwaZulu-Natal, we have expanded the provision of water, electricity, and sanitation to reach more than 85% of our population.
Since 1994, our government has implemented one of the world’s largest public housing programmes, and KwaZulu-Natal’s human settlement programme has been recognised as being exemplary and a beacon of hope by international bodies like the United Nations.
At the beginning of October, we launched the KwaZulu-Natal Water Master Plan which is being implanted in the next ten to fifteen years at a cost of no less than R150 billion to attend adequately to the challenges of water in the province.
We must all continue to improve the capacity of local government so that it can play a leading role in local economic development, investment attraction, and job creation working with the private sector.
AN OVERVIEW OF OUR JOURNEY IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT IN KWAZULU-NATAL
Ladies and Gentlemen, as the final tier, Local Government is at the coalface of service delivery. By its design, it exists to be the shortest distance between a community problem and that problem being resolved.
However this is the sphere that is often confronted by, among other issues, budgetary and resource constraints, a lack of responsiveness to public demands, a social disconnect with communities, ineffective policy programmes which leads to insufficient service delivery and bureaucratic snags.
In 2019, the District Development Model (DDM) was introduced as the service delivery programme for the 6th administration. This was as a result of the pattern of the three spheres of government operating in silos. In order for the renewal and rebuilding of a capable developmental state, the District Development Model was introduced to re-engineer the IGR Framework Model for greater specification and detail on how the three spheres of government will undertake joint planning and prudent fiscal investment.
Further in 2019, the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs in collaboration with Provincial Treasury undertook a comprehensive assessment of the state of local government in the Province of KwaZulu-Natal.
The Department had during this period continued to support all municipalities in addressing the challenges that were identified and soliciting the appropriate support to complement the municipality’s resources in delivering its mandate to the people of the Province.
Then in 2020, the Province, the country and the world faced an unprecedented crisis – the Covid-19 pandemic which disrupted the global economy and all facets of normal life. Nearly 89 000 people have lost their lives to it. As the engines for the economy, municipalities came to disproportionately exposed to the economic fallout.
Throughout this period, municipalities soldiered on to provide services, had to reimagine, revise, review and reshape the plans to counteract the dire consequences experienced by the people of this province. The Province revealed the strength and resilience amongst the municipalities in ensuring that as the coalface of service delivery, projects and programmes were sustained and have been delivered.
In 2021, KZN COGTA committed to undertake comprehensive municipal assessments at all 54 municipalities in the Province. The results of the assessment now form the basis of a report on the State of Local Government in the Province. This Report would be used as the hand over report from one dispensation to the next post the local government elections.
SUCCESSES UNDER THE SERVICE DELIVERY PILLAR
Ladies and Gentlemen, allow us to highlight some of our successes under the pillar of service delivery:
o Infrastructure backlog has marginally decreased compared to pre-democracy era
o Availability of grants and improvement in expenditure
o Availability of EPWP grant has been instrumental in addressing local unemployment challenges, to a certain extent
o More that 50% of districts have Disaster Management Centres and those outstanding have allocated budgets to either complete the disaster centres or begin centre construction.
o COGTA has channeled financial investment into Small Town Rehabilitation, CSCs, LED projects, Water and electricity projects. These interventions have brought about visible change to receiving beneficiaries.
o COGTA has also supported municipalities through procuring the yellow plant which has been distributed to benefit each district and its family of local municipalities.
CHALLENGES UNDER THE SERVICE DELIVERY PILLAR
Challenges identified in service delivery are as a result of:
o Infrastructure backlog and gaps as there is more urbanization
o Aging and dilapidated infrastructure and not enough matching revenue for repairs and maintenance.
o Violent Community protests usually about complaints about water stoppages or disruptions.
o Complicated DORA provisions which provide for set-asides for repairs and maintenance but stipulate stringent conditions which makes it inaccessible.
o Under-capacitated Project Management Units (PMUs) in some municipal has resulted in slow grant expenditure and unspent grant funding being withheld.
o High water and electricity losses.
o High water and electricity illegal connections.
o Communication with communities is not prioritized by municipalities until there are protests.
SUCCESSES UNDER THE FINANCIAL VIABILITY PILLAR
Here are some successes that we can highlight around the financial viability pillar:
• Reduction of the ESKOM debt leaving only 3 municipalities with long outstanding debt (Newcastle, Ulundi and Mpofana). These municipalities have been supported to facilitate agreements on payment plans with ESKOM.
• Improvement in implementation of the Municipal Finance Management Act and the Municipal Rates Act
• Less municipalities reliant on consultants to compile AFS, instead municipalities have developed internal capacity throughout the term to compile AFS internally.
• There has been marked improvement in grant spending such that only UKDM failed to spend 100% of MIG by June 2021.
• Support provided to some municipalities on revenue management and indigent management
CHALLENGES UNDER THE FINANCIAL VIABILITY PILLAR
The challenges around the financial pillar are still numerous and include, among others:
• Adoption of unfunded budgets still continues in municipalities
• Inadequate budget allocation for operations and maintenance, thus leading to dilapidated aging infrastructure not being repaired. Results in protests
• Grant Dependency
• Low Revenue Collection
• Low grant expenditure, especially WSIG
• Regression in Audit outcomes over the final years of the 4th term
• Increase in UIFW expenditure and slow pace in dealing with the expenditure already incurred and in introducing preventative measures.
• Slow pace in institution of consequence managment against those responsible for incurring UIFW expenditure. This talks to the ineffective oversight by governance structures (Municipal Council, MPAC, EXCO, Portfolio Committees, Audit Committees and Internal Audit Units)
• Under-capacitated Budget and Treasury Offices (BTOs) which continuously breach SCM regulations and policies and add no value to improving financial management of certain municipalities.
• Under-capacitated Revenue Management Units that add no value to escalating challenges of municipal revenue collection and management.
• No rates base in traditional areas where services are provided.
• Unaffordable salary bill against shrinking revenue sources of municipalities.
• High levels of incorrect billing which results in poor collection rates.
• Non-payment by national and provincial sector departments for services rendered by municipalities.
• Escalating ESKOM debt and water board debt and lack of payment plans.
SUCCESSES UNDER THE GOVERNANCE PILLAR
Honourable Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen:
There is no important factor that surpasses stability in a municipality. The successes and failures of any municipality depends on how stable is the leadership to enable it to take collective decisions that translate to effective service delivery.
The report by Cogta in KZN reveals these successes around governance:
Despite starting the 4th term of LG in 2016 with an increased number of coalition and hung municipalities, and despite the beginning of the term experiencing increased disruptions and instability in about 14 municipal councils, the term is ending on a high note with only 4 municipalities that have remained with persistent instability in their councils.
This is due to the good working relationship that has been created between COGTA and a majority of KZN municipalities, where provincial oversight, monitoring and support from COGTA has been warmly received thus resulting in positive outcomes of stable municipalities.
The positive working environment created between COGTA and municipalities allowed space to promote clean governance which is free of maladministration, fraud and corruption. To date, Section 106 investigations have been concluded in more than 20 municipalities. There are municipalities that have moved rapidly and implemented the recommendations made in the Section 106 reports, even to an extent of laying criminal charges.
The notion of consequence management has been instilled in the municipal space and is taken seriously by municipalities.
There is marked improvement in compliance with applicable legislation, regulations and policies by municipalities.
This is evident in municipalities’ compliance with legislated timeframes set for the adoption of the IDPs, Budgets, Service Delivery and Budget Implementation Plans (SDBIPs), as well as timeous the signing of Performance Agreements for Municipal Senior Managers and submission of Annual Financial Statements (AFS) and Annual Performance Reports (APRs) to the Auditor General.
This good practice has supported a reduction in audit findings related to timeous submission of legal documents or late adoption of legal policy documents.
The term has also seen improvement in managing performance in municipalities. Not only are SDBIPs and Performance Agreements for Senior Managers signed timeously, but there is more focus on quarterly performance monitoring and reporting at municipal level.
Public participation has also received a much more elevated attention during the 4th term of LG. Municipalities have succeeded in establishing Ward Committees whose functionality is work in progress year after year. However, communities have begun to appreciate the presence and relevance of Ward Committees.
COGTA’s Community Development Workers (CDWs) deployed in some wards play a major role in ensuring functionality of Ward Committees and at being an interface between the communities, municipalities and sector departments. Due to affordability challenges, COGTA is unable to deploy CDWs in each of the 901 Wards in the province.
Municipal Rapid Response Teams has also become an important feature in KZN municipalities. The Speakers roles have been expanded to accommodate this role of leading the Municipal Rapid Response Teams in an effort to respond quicker to community protests.
CHALLENGES UNDER THE GOVERNANCE PILLAR
Under the governance pillar, these challenges have been identified:
Persistent instability in four municipal councils, i.e. Nquthu, Emadlangeni, Umkhanyakude and Mtubatuba
High number of municipalities under Section 139 Constitutional intervention, currently 10; namely Mpofana; Msunduzi; Uthukela; Inkosi Langalibalele; Umzinyathi; Nquthu; Emadlangeni; Abaqulusi ; Umkhanyakude; Mtubatuba.
The Cllr Skills Audit conducted in 2016 revealed that a majority of councilors had a matric and general education below matric. This becomes a challenge as Local Government is highly regulated and requires a certain level of understanding of legislative processes to enable informed decision making. This has resulted in ineffective oversight being exercised by councilors over the administration. E.g. repeated adoption of unfunded budgets, no improvement in audit outcomes, low grant expenditure, escalating UIFW expenditure, etc. are some of the example of inadequate and ineffective oversight on the administration.
Despite provision of training, handbooks, guidelines and toolkits, the functionality of the Municipal Public Accounts Committees remains a challenge.
The absence of legislative framework to guide the establishment of the MPAC structures contributed to the dysfunctionality of the structures. Capacity in most members elected to serve in these committees became a challenge throughout the term of office since 2016 to 2021.
Slow pace of implementation of Section 106 report recommendations and reluctance to institute consequence management even after investigation findings require action from the councils.
In some municipalities, forensic investigations are instituted by the councils and when reports are completed, the findings are not implemented. This includes investigations on UIFW expenditure.
Ward Committees not fully functional in some municipalities and ward committee issues often do not find their way into council agendas.
Working relations with the Traditional Leaders have not improved to enable Traditional Leaders to be fully involved in planning for service delivery for their areas and to fully participate in municipal structures.
CONCLUSION: THANKS AND FAREWELL TO COUNCILLORS
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A hallmark of our democratic state is transparency and accountability which is enshrined in our Constitution and various laws.
We also pride ourselves about an independent judiciary and a free press which continues to play a watchdog role.
Since we embrace transparency and submit ourselves to accountability, sometimes it is easy to get overwhelmed by reports in the public domain about the shortcomings of government in general and local government in particular.
But only the enemies of truth can deny that over the past five years, there is a great deal that we have achieved at local government. You will be the first to agree that the ANC in particular as the governing party openly admits to its weakness and challenges in the system. We remain determined to learn from our experiences and to work harder to improve the performance of local government. Our plan is contained in our election manifesto and other documents.
It would be amiss, Ladies and Gentlemen, if I do not take this opportunity to thank all our Councillors and Mayors from all political parties who have served the people of KwaZulu-Natal with distinction since these past five years.
We applaud you all for your selfless service, commitment, and hard work in helping our government to deepen democracy and improve the lives of our people.
By partnering with communities, you ensured that local government becomes the sphere where the demand of the Freedom Charter that the people shall govern found its greatest resonance.
You have demonstrated that through effective, democratic local government people are able to take decisions that directly affect their lives and shape their communities.
We certainly hope that history will judge all of you kindly.
We wish you and your loved ones success beyond the 1st on November.
We will continue to depend on your experience and patriotism in turning around local government in KwaZulu-Natal.
Stay safe from road accidents and COVID-19. Stay cautions on the roads and remember that vaccination is our best weapon against this pandemic.
Together, let us continue building better communities and improving the lives of our people.
Together Growing KwaZulu-Natal!
I thank you!