Durban - Five KwaZulu-Natal municipalities are in arrears with Eskom payments totalling R675.1 million while 12 are categorised as dysfunctional, with four having “chronic” areas of dysfunctionality.
This was the bleak picture of the municipalities painted during Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC Sipho Hlomuka’s R1.818 billion 2022/23 budget policy speech at the KZN legislature in Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday.
To turn this around Hlomuka’s team developed municipal master and municipal support plans for all other municipalities in the province to monitor and support them to improve on identified weak performance areas.
He said the 2021 local government elections created coalitions to govern. The lack of consensus and insufficient level of co-operation within such councils was likely to be a dominant factor that could affect council decision-making and leadership, and potentially result in divided and dysfunctional councils, thus negatively impacting service delivery.
Hlomuka said the State of Local Government Report focused on governance, financial management and service delivery in the 54 municipalities with the latest review conducted in August last year.
The review found 11 municipalities to be very stable and require only monitoring, 14 municipalities were categorised as low-risk requiring just general Section 154 support, 17 municipalities were found to be at medium risk requiring close monitoring and support, and 12 municipalities were categorised as dysfunctional and required high-priority support and targeted intervention.
Eight of these municipalities are already under Section 139 intervention. On the human resources front, 2021/22 saw the finalisation of the permanent appointment of 120 contract employees in the department. However, through a series of Memoranda of Understanding with external training institutions such as the National School of Government, the department provided training opportunities to 736 departmental staff at all levels of employment. Examples of training included ethics, problem-solving and decision-making, and project and supply chain management.
Four municipalities have reduced their debt, namely Ulundi (owing R99.2 million from an original debt of R105.3m), Newcastle (owing R137.8m from the original debt of R264.8m), Msunduzi (owing R189.4m from the original debt of R199.9m) and Endumeni (owing R36.2m from the original debt of R54.2m).
Mpofana Municipality, by contrast, now owes the power utility R293.5m, which is an increase of R50.9m from the previous year.
KZN Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane said that medico-legal claims due to the establishment of a panel of legal experts had been reduced.
A total of 218 letters of demand and 115 summons were received in 2021/22.
The department was able to finalise 33 cases during 2021/22 at a cost of R242.5m. The original summons amount for these cases was R459m. Simelane said the legal team managed to reduce the claims by 47% which was “a significant saving”.
The department is working with a budget of R49.6 billion for 2022/23.
Simelane said the department was determined to reduce waiting times through, among other interventions, an e-Health programme; as well as the programme Ikhemisi Eduze Nawe, also known as the Central Chronic Medicines Dispensing and Distribution (CCMDD) programme.
“This refers to the many pick-up points for medication that we have established in communities, including libraries, tribal courts, chemists, community halls, and others.”
Another point of discussion was staff attitude.
“Staff must display the highest professional standards and respect patients at all times. Of course, respect is a two-way street and, equally, patients have a responsibility to respect our staff.”
Simelane said the department was still moving away from the paper-based record management system and admitted that there were administrative and IT system hurdles.
“We have commenced with the training of staff, as well as procurement of computer equipment in the identified facilities. We have begun to operationalise the system, in different phases, at 22 hospitals across the province. From the beginning of 2023 onwards, we will be adding a further 20 hospitals to this list.”