Municipalities Have a Good Story to Tell

Despite grappling with several challenges, municipalities have a good story to tell in building sustainable communities, says National Executive Committee chairperson of the South African Local Government Association (Salga), Mpho Nawa.

Nawa said on Tuesday, various strides have been made to ensure that municipalities are increasingly capacitated, resourced and that there are better outcomes, value and impact for the resources deployed.

Under the democratic dispensation, there has been a remarkable increase in the access to basic services such as water, sanitation and electricity.

“Through the provision of these basic amenities that were denied to the majority of our people under apartheid, we have made strides in building a more cohesive and inclusive society.

“The housing developments have created vibrant communities that have a range of basic facilities including cregraveches, clinics and schools,” Nawa said at the 2015 Salga National Members Assembly (NMA), which enters its second day today.

The three-day assembly held in Midrand coincides with South Africa celebrating 15 years of the existence of democratic local government and takes place under the theme ’15 Years of Democratic Local Government – Consolidating and Deepening Vibrant, Developmental and People Centred Local Democracy’.

On Tuesday, President Jacob Zuma delivered the keynote address to over 1 300 delegates. He said while there was much to celebrate in local government, the long-lasting effect of apartheid meant that for some in the country, there has been little change.

Nawa said the NMA is an opportune platform to address this by seeking new ways to build responsive, accountable, effective and efficient local government structures.

Helping municipalities to deliver

Nawa said Salga launched the Municipal Audit Support Programme (MASP) to improve the audit outcomes of municipalities. He said the forthcoming Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) Audit Outcomes will show that Salga has stepped up its support for municipalities.

Far from being complacent and satisfied, Nawa echoed President Zuma’s opinion that there is much that still needs to be done to improve and strengthen local government.

The National Development Plan proposes solutions to service delivery challenges and recognises capable municipalities as the bedrock of a capable state.

“We call on all key role players to rally behind the NDP and the Back-to-Basics programme in support of our vision to build better communities and a prosperous South Africa,” said Nawa.

Given the many identified capacity challenges facing municipalities, Salga, together with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), has laid the basis of professionalising the sector, as well as introducing targeted interventions that are geared at turning around the performance of municipalities.

Salga has successfully piloted the Executive Leadership Development Programme, which aims to improve the calibre of leaders in municipalities.

It has also put in place the Executive Leadership Coaching Programme to strengthen accountability and good governance in municipalities.

Stemming out corruption

The NMA will also look at the Anti-Corruption Strategy geared at ridding the ranks of municipalities of corruption.

With this strategy, there has been a significant increase in the number of prosecutions and convictions for fraud and corruption across the three spheres of government.

Collaboration with the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and other law enforcement agencies has also helped the State to recover funds lost through fraud and corruption.

Recovering money owed to Eskom

Municipalities owe approximately R4.9 billion and direct consumers owe a similar amount to power utility Eskom.

Nawa said Salga will launch a national campaign to get communities to understand the value chain of service delivery and pay for services rendered.

Consumers will be helped to understand that non-payment of services leads to less revenue and in turn, constrains the ability to maintain and upgrade infrastructure and provide the desired level of services.

“Non-payment for any service has a knock-on effect on the service delivery value chain. While we have a responsibility to provide sustainable services, citizens, businesses and in deed government departments also have a responsibility to pay for the services they use,” Nawa said.

The assembly is attended by Cabinet Ministers, Premiers, municipal political leadership, municipal managers, chief financial officers from 278 municipalities, and MECs responsible for Local Government.

It is the second highest decision-making body of Salga and is held every 30 months in between conferences.

It presents an opportunity for key role players in the local government sector to take stock and reflect on the various efforts to support local government to better perform and be responsive to citizens’ demands.

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