Most Free State municipalities are in dire financial straits because there are no consequences for gross violations of financial rules or financial misconduct, says the province’s MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Ketso “Toto” Makume.
Speaking to The Star, he said another main reason the municipalities were in this situation was due, among some of them, to a lack of proper financial systems being in place.
Makume said some of the province’s municipalities were structured in a way that did not make economic sense.
While acknowledging some municipalities were in deep financial distress, he said the problems were not just limited to finances, but that various factors had contributed to the situation.
Responding to questions, Makume said that since his appointment as MEC in April last year, his department had put in place various plans and made interventions to remedy the problems.
“Now... the department has put in place a committee aimed at ensuring that municipalities meet their financial obligations and resolve the critical issues I have mentioned above. This committee includes officials from the department and some from the provincial treasury,” he said.
On municipalities’ failure to appoint qualified people to vacant positions, the MEC said this was caused by lack of discipline, and the department had recommended consequence management be instituted.
One of the reasons the municipalities were not attracting candidates was their failure to advertise attractive remuneration, which would help attract suitable professionals due to how they are established and structured.
The MEC said, he believed the province did not lack qualified professionals to do the work, but municipalities should improve on recruiting the best from the pool of professionals in the province.
Further, Makume said lack of revenue collection, coupled with a lack of filling of vacancies, had a negative impact on service provision.
“It is precisely the reason why the department, as part of supporting the municipalities, our intervention team is working tirelessly to ensure that vacancies are being filled. Let me also assure you that there have been improvements in some of the municipalities. It is a work in progress,” he said.
It was, however, not all doom and gloom, as most of the municipalities, except for one, were able to submit their financial reports to the office of the Auditor-General (AG) for the first time in ages for them to be audited.
Makume emphasised that some of the municipalities were working tirelessly to fill vacancies, while some were at the stage of short-listing candidates and others were awaiting the outcome of interviews.
“There has been improvement with the interaction with our people; ward councillors calling their monthly meetings; and, IDP processes being people driven and people centred.
“We have also initiated the cleanest town competition with the aim of involving communities to clean and green our towns. The focus here is to ensure that graveyards, open spaces that have been turned into dumping sites, taxi ranks and downtown [areas] be cleaned and maintained,” he explained.
Makume said the department’s focus was on making sure its own house was clean and green, adding that they expected all municipalities to participate in the green project.
“Our constitutional duty is to support municipalities and we can’t fail on this one, but we still need to do more.”