Cogta vows to get tough on troubled councils
Durban - If no progress is made in bringing troubled municipalities placed under administration back on track, the Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Department should consider the drastic step of dissolving them, the Cogta portfolio said yesterday.
The committee said it was dismayed by the lack of improvement in struggling KwaZulu-Natal municipalities that were placed under administration in the 2018/19 financial year.
The Msunduzi Local, Uthukela District, Richmond Local and Mtubatuba Local municipalities received qualified audit opinions while Inkosi Langalibalele Local received an adverse audit opinion.
The Umzinyathi District and Mpofana local municipalities received disclaimers, the worst possible audit outcome, during the financial year in question.
“We are of the considered view that the basis for a functional municipality is good governance and adherence to legislative and policy frameworks.
“Also, the intention of the intervention is to assist the municipalities to return to functionality, which is obviously not being achieved in these cases,” committee chairperson Faith Muthambi said yesterday.
The committee called for hard decisions to be considered in municipalities that are not improving.
Muthambi said one such decision that can be taken is the dissolution of a municipality if exceptional circumstances exist, as prescribed in Section 139 (1) (c) of the Constitution.
“We are cognisant of the fact that to invoke Section 139 requires proof that both the provincial and the national governments have supported the municipality to improve its performance.
“But it is an undeniable fact that some municipalities have been under administration since 2017 and that indicates perpetual and unresolved problems,” said Muthambi.
Section 139 intervention provides for the appointment of ministerial representatives to troubled municipalities in an attempt to bring stability.
Regarding investigations in municipalities, the committee has committed to engaging the national Cogta department to empower MEC Sipho Hlomuka to enforce the recommended remedial actions after investigations of troubled municipalities.
The committee further reiterated its call for decisive consequence management against those implicated in wrongdoing.
“The perennial problem of negative audit outcomes by municipalities in the country is worrying and requires our collective resolve and focus if we are to change this worrying course. The committee, in exercising its oversight role, saw it prudent to visit KZN to assess the implementation of audit improvement plans in the province,” she said.
DA Cogta spokesperson Haniff Hoosen said the main contributing factor to failing municipalities was the lack of political will to take action and hold those responsible for their failures.
“Across KZN and municipalities all over South Africa, some politicians and officials do as they please and nothing happens to them. We are losing hundreds of billions of hard-earned taxpayers’ money and there are little or no consequences for those fingered for poor management and corruption.
“One of the main reasons for this is that many of the culprits are political appointments and there is little courage to act against their own,” said Hoosen.