COGTA to rein in dysfunctional municipalities

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has vowed to rein in municipalities placed under administration and those owing power utility Eskom.

Minister Mkhize delivered his maiden Budget Vote speech on Tuesday morning, where he tabled his budget of R83 billion in the 2018/19 financial year.

The tabled budget is divided as follows:

Department of Cooperative Governance

– Transfers and subsidies: R80.1 billion (95.8%).

– Operational costs (including compensation of employees, goods and services and payment of capital assets): R556 million (0.7%).

– Community Work Programme: R3.8 billion (4.6%).

– Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA): R342 million (0.4%).

Department of Traditional Affairs

– Transfers to the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural Religious and Linguistic Communities R153 million (0.2%) and approximately R42 million, respectively.

– Municipal Systems Improvement Indirect Grant: R115 million (0.1%)

Municipalities under administration

According to Minister Mkhize, 11 municipalities are currently being administered by provincial governments under Section 139, which allows provincial governments to intervene where municipalities fail.

These municipalities will be monitored with a view of ensuring that they improve and get out of Section 139 within 12 months, said the Minister.

KwaZulu-Natal leads the pack with six of its municipalities under provincial administration, followed by Free State with three and Eastern and Western Cape each with one.

The 11 municipalities where section 139 has been imposed by provincial governments are:

KwaZulu-Natal: Emadlangeni Local Municipality, Emzinyathi District Municipality; Mpofana Local Municipality; Inkosi Langalibalele Local Municipality; Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma Local Municipality and Edumbe Local Municipality (with section 136/137 MFMA).

Free State: Masilonyana Local Municipality; Maluti-a-Phofong Local Municipality and Mafube Local Municipality.

Eastern Cape – Walter Sisulu Local Municipality and Western Cape – Kannaland Local Municipality.

COGTA will explore the acquisition of ICT capability and an early warning system dashboard to counter the problems faced by these municipalities.

We need early detection of community discontent and timeous responses to reduce instances where community frustration bursts out into public protests and burning barricades. This ICT capability will improve COGTA effectiveness in supporting early interventions, said Minister Mkhize.

To combat the challenges faced by municipalities nationwide, COGTA has decided to initiate an intensive Recovery Programme.

The programme will ensure support in three focus areas, namely governance, service delivery and financial management.

Eskom debt

Minister Mkhize said it is unacceptable that municipalities owe so much money to Eskom and water boards.

As at 31 December 2017, the total bulk services owed by municipalities was R23.6 billion, R16.2 billion for electricity and R7.4 billion for water.

Among the top five provinces owing Eskom are Free State, Mpumalanga, North West, Gauteng and Limpopo. Together they owe 70% of the total debt to Eskom.

We have appealed to Eskom to suspend the interruption of services to municipalities due to the huge sums of monies that they owe, said Minister Mkhize.

An inter-ministerial task team (IMTT) led by COGTA is currently looking at the constitutional, systemic and structural challenges in electricity distribution and reticulation, as well as to find solutions to the electricity and water bulk services debt owed to State-owned companies by municipalities.

The IMTT is overseeing a technical team which is tasked with finding solutions on the issue of municipal debt for bulk services.

Source: South African Government News Agency