As the auditor-general painted a bleak picture of financial management at municipalities, a leading business body has suggested that vigilance by communities and business is key to holding municipalities accountable.
The National Employers’ Associations of South Africa (Neasa), an employer body, said communities can play a critical role. They need to demand accountability from the local authorities, said CEO Gerhard Papenfus.
Last month, Treasury gazetted far-reaching cost-containment measures for municipalities as part of cost-cutting measures by the state to improve its balance sheet.
Communities must ensure the municipalities implement these measures and publish them on their websites for all to see, Papenfus said.
But the influential South African Local Government Association (Salga), while in support of the measures, was concerned with the lack of consultation with stakeholders, public comments, and subjecting the regulations to a parliamentary scrutiny.
Salga’s concern forced the Treasury to postpone its July 1 deadline for the implementation until the consultation process had occurred.
This is against a backdrop of the dire situation revealed in the recent report of Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu, who said of the 257 municipalities his office audited, a mere 18 received clean audits – a marked drop from 33 municipalities that received clean audits the previous year.
The regression was a setback for the Ramaphosa government which came to power not only on the anti-corruption ticket but on a promise for service delivery in terms of his Thuma Mina.
Papenfus said vigilance and holding municipalities accountable, particularly by the business, would help to return local government to functionality.
“All these measures by Treasury have been implemented to hold municipalities accountable. However, without a vigilant community, the old destructive habits will continue and the country will only have itself to blame”.
Julius Kleynhans, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) operations manager for local government, was appalled “but not surprised” that only 8% of the municipalities received clean audits, or that R21.2 billion was accounted for as irregular expenditure.
“Provincial interventions are not working because of political interference and the lack of holding transgressors to account. The new minister of the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and the new MECs must fix local government if they want to save our country from a complete collapse.”
Outa’s Godfrey Gulston identified the root causes as lacking management and accounting skills by municipalities.