KZN municipalities urged to stop hiring consultants

Pretoria: KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nomusa Dube-Ncube, has urged municipalities to stop hiring consultants to prepare municipal financial statements.

This, she said, was done at a considerable cost without direct accountability for municipal audit outcomes.

Addressing the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) KZN Finance Week Conference in Durban today, MEC Dube-Ncube said there are municipalities which spend excessive amounts on consultants to collate their financial statements and yet they receive a disclaimer from the Auditor-General.

“How is this possible and why is no one taken to task for this?” she asked.

MEC Dube-Ncube said the total amount spent by KZN municipalities on external consultants for financial management in municipalities was over R6.9 million in 2012/13.

She said this amount subsequently increased to a staggering R13.4 million in 2013/14 despite repeated calls from Cogta to build sustainable in-house capacity in municipalities.

Debt owed to municipalities

MEC Dube-Ncube also addressed the issue of money owed to municipalities, which affects their financial position as well as their ability to meet their constitutional mandate of expanding public infrastructure and delivering basic services to communities.

“We must vigorously address the challenges pertaining to the debtor’s book of our municipalities. We must ensure proper verification and data cleansing processes. The amounts owed to municipalities are still of great concern,” she told the gathering of municipal mayors and managers.

The municipal debt currently stands at a provincial total of R9.6 billion based on the audited figures as at the end of June 2014. Less than 5% of this is attributed to state institutions, such as government departments, at both provincial and national level.

“Where there are challenges with state institutions owing municipalities, these are being dealt with through intergovernmental relations… But the primary concern is consumer debt and our municipalities need to begin to collect outstanding amounts with vigour,” said MEC Dube-Ncube.

She also reminded municipalities that by September 2015, all municipalities with CFO’s that does not comply with norms and standards in addition to their municipal finance qualification will by law have to vacate their jobs.

Maintaining infrastructure

MEC Dube-Ncube further appealed to the municipalities to set aside 5% of their budgets for repairs and maintenance.

“In the recent analysis, we found that there is poor maintenance of infrastructure and public property in many of our municipalities. Most municipalities don’t have a repair and maintenance budget, hence the continued deterioration of infrastructure.

“This has somehow contributed to the frustrations of communities as experienced through service delivery protest. Communities at times protest against the deterioration of public infrastructure and not against the perceived lack of service delivery.”

SOURCE: South African Official News