Johannesburg - Limpopo has budgeted R1.2 million to pay consultants who will assess its municipalities for the province to clean up “the mess” in the majority of councils.
Co-operative Governance, Human Settlement and Traditional Affairs MEC Makoma Makhurupetje said sources such as the Auditor-General’s audit report, which already reveal the paralysis in many councils, were not sufficient to diagnose deep-rooted problems.
She defended the expenditure on the yet-to-be appointed team of experts on Wednesday, after she had tabled a R2.158 billion departmental budget vote for the current financial year on Tuesday.
“For me as (MEC) to support municipalities or even respond, I must be able to know what the status of these municipalities is.
“There are very small things that I don’t know. You hear the people of Polokwane complaining every day about (excessive) bills. I must know what the billing systems of all these municipalities are,” said Makhurupetje.
An audit report released last week by Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu paints a gloomy picture about provincial municipalities.
Limpopo has five district and 25 local municipalities, but none of them got a clean audit opinion for the 2012-13 financial year.
Makwetu found that in the majority of municipalities, incompetent officials held strategic positions.
“The most significant matter for a number of years is that in 88 percent of the municipalities, some of the key officials lack minimum competencies and skills (including 52 percent of CFOs - chief financial officers) and there are vacancies in key positions (16 percent of CFO positions were vacant at year-end).”
While provincial municipalities spent R56.4m on consultants, to prepare financial statements, among other things, there was virtually no value for money, Makwetu said.
Makhurupetje said nearly R1bn of municipal infrastructure grants was returned to the National Treasury because the municipalities failed to use it.
“Municipal infrastructure grants are the money allocated for water reticulation, waste services and sanitation, and municipal roads,” she said.
Makhurupetje insisted that her team of experts would help her to fully understand problems in municipalities, and to lay a good foundation for councillors who will take over after the 2016 local government elections.
“The new councils when they come in place must not say ‘we are still learning’. They must be given a handover and a report that says ‘this is the work that we have already done; don’t mess up again because this mess has been cleaned up’,” said Makhurupetje.