Johannesburg - Deputy Public Protector Advocate Kholeka Gcaleka has issued a stern warning to Gauteng municipalities to co-operate with the office’s investigations and implement remedial action.
Gcaleka said municipalities in the country’s economic hub have a “penchant to take extraordinarily long to respond to investigators’ enquiries, submitted responses that were scant on detail, and were worryingly poor at record-keeping”.
She warned that accountability was not an option.
“Some municipalities in the province tended to cancel crucial scheduled meetings and alternative dispute resolution sittings at the eleventh hour, causing untold disruptions to investigations,” Gcaleka said at the SA Local Government Association in Gauteng’s strategic planning session.
She said responding late to enquiries, providing little detail and poor record-keeping were more prevalent at municipalities under administration and at those that had been amalgamated.
According to Gcaleka, explanations are not enough, accountability includes redress or taking corrective action to address the specific wrongdoing, restorative justice for victims of the state’s administrative bungles, clawing back public resources acquired through unlawful means, and fixing systems to avoid the recurrence of improper conduct or maladministration.
The Office of the Public Protector is investigating 173 service delivery and conduct failure complaints in 10 municipalities.
The overwhelming majority of the complaints, 86, are against the City of Tshwane; the Ekurhuleni Metro has 36, while the City of Johannesburg faces 30 investigations.
The investigations involving the City of Tshwane include 65 relating to alleged irregular billing for water and electricity services, 11 of undue delays in the delivery of basic services, three involving alleged corruption (sale of RDP houses or stands), and one probe is for alleged tender irregularities.
In Ekurhuleni, 16 investigations are into alleged irregular billing for water and electricity services, and 11 for undue delays in the rendering of basic services.
In Johannesburg, 15 investigations involve water and electricity billing, five involve undue delays in the delivery of services, four concern alleged corruption and two concern alleged tender irregularities.
Pervasive water and electricity billing complaints in Tshwane have prompted the Office of the Public Protector to launch a systemic probe, which was at an advanced stage.
The Public Protector’s office has issued 17 formal investigation reports against Gauteng municipalities over the past four years. These include the improper awarding of contracts, irregular appointments, illegal occupation of RDP houses because of the improper management of the allocation process, mismanagement of municipal funds, delays in issuing title deeds and unlawful evictions.
The implementation of remedial action was still outstanding in nine of the 17 cases.