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Johannesburg - Political infighting within the Limpopo ANC harm governance in municipalities controlled by the same ruling party.
So said Auditor-General Terence Nombembe, in a general report on audit outcomes of local government released this week.
While he didn’t mention the ANC by name, Nombembe said “tensions” between councils and provincial leaders damage administrations in municipalities.
The ANC overwhelmingly controls all 30 municipalities in Limpopo and is the ruling party in the province.
Nombembe’s biting observations cast the ANC as a party at war with itself.
“While such situations are to be expected from time to time at a political level, in these cases it was allowed to flow over and negatively impact on the administration,” stated Nombembe.
He cited Polokwane, Bela-Bela and Modimolle municipalities as the notorious turfs for political battles.
Disunity within the councils of Aganang, Blouberg and Molemole was also “visible”.
Beyond the political squabbles, Nombembe noted that municipal employees “sabotage” their bosses.
“At the Greater Giyani, Greater Tzaneen, Lepelle-Nkumpi and Polokwane municipalities it was clear that certain staff members were set on discrediting management by facilitating poor outcomes, in some cases going as far as outright sabotage by withholding pertinent information and/or documents,” he said.
But while petty gripes and power politics play out at municipalities, ordinary people are compromised, as Nombembe’s report shows.
All five district municipalities in Limpopo underspent their conditional grants by an average of 18 percent, while 83 percent of 25 local municipalities underspent by an average of 28 percent.
“Municipalities receive conditional grants for the purpose of achieving specifically identified objectives, mostly related to service delivery,” said Nombembe.
“However, this money is used to fund operational expenses due to a lack of proper planning and budgeting,” he noted.
Vacancy rates at senior management positions stand at 23 percent, he added.
The scarcity of skills and interference by politicians in the appointment processes were some of the reasons behind the delay in the filling of key vacancies, according to Nombembe.
But in contrast, the majority of those holding key positions were either incompetent or unqualified.
“Officials in key positions at more than 72 percent (21 out of 29) of the auditees actually did not have the minimum competencies and skills required to perform their jobs,” said Nombembe.
He lamented the transfer to other councils of chief financial officers whose municipalities received disclaimers for five years.
The inability to provide credible and reliable financial statements by chief financial officers in almost all municipalities remains a concern for Nombembe.
“It was only at the Mogalakwena and Waterberg District municipalities where material corrections were not required to be made to the financial statements during the audit process,” said Nombembe.
He also noted that struggling local municipalities that fall under the Waterberg district municipality were unwilling to be assisted by district officials. This was despite the fact that the district municipality had received two clean audit opinions for two consecutive years.
Nombembe noted that some municipalities were reliant on consultants, but skills were not being transferred.