KZN Legislature: Budget Debate on Vote 11

25 July 2019

Honourable Chairperson:

The IFP welcomes the budget of R1.8 billion allocated to the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs to execute its constitutional mandate of synchronising and fostering co-operation among government departments to build capacity of provision of services to the people of KwaZulu-Natal.
It is of critical importance that as the IFP, we remind the department of its distinct responsibility, of supporting and strengthening the capacity of municipalities to manage their own affairs effectively and optimally.

COGTA should always ensure that, each municipality provides services to communities in a sustainable manner, promote social and economic development, promote safe and healthy environment and encourage the involvement of all community stakeholders including the private sector and the community at large in matters of local government.
Therefore, this department should fully utilise this allocated budget to address challenges that hamper service delivery in our communities. Unfortunately, this is not what we witness in most cases. Today, we are debating this budget while there is chaos and instability in many municipalities across the province including eThekwini Metro and Msunduzi Municipality.
We echo the sentiments expressed by those who are calling for the Mayor of eThekwini to do the right thing and tender her resignation in order to bring proper governance in this municipality.

The burning question that needs to be asked however is: Is this budget enough to fast-track service delivery challenges facing our people in all the municipalities? This is because, it is public knowledge that majority of Municipalities scattered across the length and breadth of this province are not performing hence we see a lot of community protests on the lack of service delivery.
The recent report by the Auditor General on the state of affairs of the KZN Municipalities leaves much to be desired and this calls for urgent action. The report painted a very dismal picture on the handling of finances in our Province by Municipalities. It showed that only just one Municipality from KwaZulu-Natal managed to produce quality financial performance by receiving a clean audit, out of 61 municipalities within this Province.

It is a matter of concern that Fifty-four (54) municipalities incurred R2.94bn in irregular expenditure in the past financial year in the whole country.
Municipal debts are increasing at an alarming rate. The failure by municipalities to honour agreements to pay their creditors on time has had and continues to have major crippling effects on their financial performance which inhibits their ability to render services to our communities.

Many Municipalities within the Province owe Eskom millions of rands with Mpofana Municipality alone owing more than R123million.
The Newcastle Municipality owes creditors R278 millions of which R183 million is owed to Eskom and R39 million to uThukela Water for the supply of water. For the past three years, Ratings Africa has rated Newcastle as the worst performing municipality and in 2018, the MEC sent a Section 139(1)(a) notice to the Municipality. Nothing has improved and so the IFP requests the MEC to implement Section 139(1)(b) and appoint an Administrator in this municipality.

Here in Msunduzi, the Capital City of the Province, municipal debt is approaching Four-billion-rand mark and the municipality is owed R3.487 billion by consumers that includes government departments, private businesses and individual households and there are no signs of improvement. The fact that this Municipality has been placed under administration has not yielded any positive results so far.

Hon MEC, action must be taken against all Municipalities that owe Eskom since this affects service delivery and the economy at large. We call on municipalities to ensure that their residents pay their bills because municipalities need the revenue to provide for services. Likewise, government departments must pay their bills on time to Municipalities.

The IFP is comforted by the promulgation of the Public Audit Amendment Act, we hope that it will ensure that transgressing Municipalities and government departments are brought to book.
COGTA alongside Auditor General’s office must have sharp teeth to bite and intervene in fixing problems in the municipalities. We call on provincial government to take appropriate steps to make this province work again by putting a stop to corruption, maladministration, fraud, lack of accountability and all other municipal governance failures. The culture of rewarding incompetence must come to an end once and for all.

The IFP believes that financial mismanagement will persist if there are no consequences for perpetrators. It is imperative that we implement accountability measures and consequence management for officials dealing with public’s money. It is totally shocking and unacceptable that the level of non-compliance with the key governance laws — including those related to the procurement of goods and services — was the highest at 92% from 85% the previous year.

Hon MEC, I venture to say that the state of local governance in the Province is in a crisis. It is important to know that the local government sphere is the sphere that is closest to the people. The IFP believes that all efforts must be put in place in order to ensure that this sphere delivers on the needs of the people. Corruption, maladministration and poor service delivery leaves a lot to be desired. In some municipalities residents have to content with sewage that spills over onto their yards as in the case of Ekuvukeni under Alfred Duma Local Municipality where one of our leaders saw for himself the unhealthy environment our people are made to live under. He also took photos of what he saw. When enquired from the residents as to whether they have reported this to the local office of the Municipality they told him that they have reported but the municipal officials told them that they do not know when they will come to fix the problem since there is a long list of households that still have to be attended to who have a similar problem. This is a shame and our people should not be subjected to such humiliation. Hon MEC your urgent intervention in this regard is required in order to restore the dignity to the people living under these intolerable conditions.

He also had a meeting with members of the community in Ezihlabathini under the same Municipality who complained that it had been a long time they last had water supply. They said water tankers are not supplying water to them taps are dry and there are no boreholes, they have to fetch water from a river where livestock drink and pollute the same water they have to drink and wash themselves with in order to survive. Why should our people continue to live under such intolerable conditions, Hon MEC?
We have witnessed a lot of service delivery protests in many parts of the Province lately where our people are taking to the streets to voice out their concerns and anger about the failure to provide them with services by their respective Municipalities.

We strongly believe that if the government can implement accountability measures and ensure every cent is used to deliver services for our people, service delivery protests will decrease dramatically.

The Back to Basics programme has demonstrated no tangible outcomes, although the programme itself is well intentioned. If this programme were to be implemented effectively a lot will improve within our Municipalities. We call upon the government to speed up infrastructure backlogs in rural parts of our Province.

The water crisis is severe since a majority of poor municipalities in our Province are still facing it. It is an irony that the people of Jozini are without water but they have Jozini Dam next to them.

We call upon the Hon MEC to ensure that IDPs of Municipalities are not only a wishlist but they should be implemented in order to improve the quality of lives of the people of KwaZulu-Natal.

The IFP is concerned about Municipalities that are failing to effectively spend their allocation on infrastructure grant. The Municipal Infrastructure Grant is directly linked to addressing service delivery challenges like water and sanitation.In townships and small towns, the problem lies with, decades of municipalities’ failure to maintain infrastructure. This has resulted in sewage leaking into water sources in many areas.

The IFP notes that R9.6 million carry through over the MTEF for the KZN Province to strengthen the support intervention in municipalities as per Section 139 of the Constitution.

Hon Chairperson, people who were affected by floods and droughts have not been assisted in some areas since 2008, but there is budget allocated for emergency cases in this department. Areas like eThekwini Municipality which are in violation of Section 44 of the Disaster Management Act since they have inadequate staff resources to effectively meet the disaster unit objectives. The early warning systems are not properly functional in Municipalities across the Province. We urge the MEC to ensure that this is corrected. It is important to evaluate the state of readiness of all disaster management centres in KwaZulu-Natal in order to ensure that they are in a position to mitigate disasters that may occur.

The IFP believes that traditional leadership has a critical role to play in developing our communities. They also ensure social order and stability in many parts of this Province. It is important therefore that they should be recognised and be allowed to paly a role in developing their communities.

To provide solutions in respect of all the above-mentioned local governance challenges, the IFP believes that:
First of all, all municipal council structures must be functional, they must meet regularly, and ensure that their governance responsibilities are carried thorough.
Oversight committees must be in place and meet their responsibilities without any interference, and these include audit committees and public accounts committees.
Secondly, the IFP believes that all Municipalities, must enforce competency standards for senior managers, and appoint persons with the requisite skills, expertise and qualifications. All senior managers must sign performance agreements and must be held to them.

We must, thirdly, ensure sound financial management. All municipalities should have a fully functional financial management system. There must be rigorous internal controls and wasteful expenditure should be done away with. The supply chain processes and structures must have appropriate oversight and transparency. There must be cash-backed budgets and not theoretical and aspirational budgets. Post audit action plans which follow on Auditor-General reports must be implemented.

Fourthly, substantive community engagements and participation must take place regularly. All Councillors must report regularly to their wards and to their citizens in their wards. Municipalities must have clear engagement platforms with communities, and ensure that communities are fully informed of what is going and what they can expect in terms of their needs.
Fifthly, we call upon the acceleration of the implementation of the “back to basics” programme, in order to ensure that Municipalities function properly and are able to fulfil their constitutional mandate.

It is important to note that the Auditor-General has consistently pointed out failure by Municipalities to comply with supply chain management regulations and policies which leads to irregular and wasteful expenditure due to a lack of basic controls, and a lack of consequences for poor performance and transgressions.

I thank you