Government seeks to improve performance at district municipalities

OCTOBER 9, 2014

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Pravin Gordhan says national government has looked at ways of strengthening municipalities at district level in order to improve the overall performance of local government.

“There are district and local municipalities in certain parts of the country that are fairly weak or financially unviable or have difficulties in attracting the right level of capacity,” the Minister said.

He was briefing the media after the Presidential Coordinating Committee (PCC) meeting held at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Wednesday.

Minister Gordhan said municipalities need to employ people with high levels of skills, capacity and competence to address the challenges they face.

He said some municipalities faced the challenge of having a small population of councillors and very limited or non-existent revenue, making them entirely dependent on transfers from national government.

“Those are the policy issues that we said we will look at further in preparation for the next meeting to see how we can enhance overall performance of municipalities,” he said.

The Minister said the PCC meeting was a follow-up to the Presidential Local Government Summit (PLGS), which was held in mid-September, where all Mayors and municipal managers from the 278 municipalities of South Africa were invited.

“We needed to understand what worked in these municipalities and what did not work, and we developed a programme called Back to Basics,” Minister Gordhan said.

The Back to Basics programme states unequivocally that municipalities need to do what they are supposed to do regarding delivering services to the people, communicate effectively with communities and manage their finances well, among other things.

The Minister said that all provinces were in agreement with the Back to Basics approach.

Other issues that the meeting discussed were the state of local government in the country; demarcation of municipalities in preparation for the 2016 local government elections; acquisition of land for the development of municipalities; municipal budgets and expenditure, as well as general issues relating to procurement reforms in government.

“We want every municipality to ensure that it keeps proper records… 41 municipalities in the country had disclaimers every year over the last three years.

“[The common] reason for these disclaimers is that they could not produce documents that the Auditor-General wanted to see,” said Minister Gordhan.

The PCC meeting was chaired by President Jacob Zuma and all Premiers were present. South African Local Government Association members were also part of the PCC meeting.

Minister Gordhan said the meeting gave the President an opportunity to be informed about progress made in local government and highlighted the identified challenges, and also allowed him to be part of the planning of new programmes.

Minister Gordhan said monitoring and measuring systems for municipalities were also discussed, which will establish whether municipalities are doing what they are supposed to do.

The non-performance of municipalities was also on the agenda and it was agreed that supportive interventions will take place to ensure that municipalities do what is expected of them.

The Minister said municipalities also faced the challenge of spatial integration between townships, suburbs and cities.

He said State-owned land will be identified for developmental purposes. -

Photo caption: Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Pravin Gordhan. Image: The Daily Maverick.