NATIONAL ASSEMBLY THURSDAY, 13 MAY 14:00 – 16:15 MINI-PLENARIES (VIRTUAL) 2. Vote 3 & 15: Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs  [Hon. SA Buthelezi]

Honourable Speaker/Chairperson,

The IFP has repeatedly voiced its concern about the state of municipalities across the country. The level of mismanagement and irregular expenditure has reached an unacceptable high, and it seems that this wave of corrupt conduct on the part of public officials is unabating. In light of the critical role that local government has been tasked with playing during the pandemic, the state of affairs is concerning, as citizens are left at the mercy of corrupt officials to provide emergency water, increased sanitation of public transport and facilities, food and shelter for the homeless, as well as basic and community services.

The IFP wishes to express concern that over the last three years, the Department has received negative audit findings. For a Department charged with handling billions of Rands from the public purse, this is an alarm to which we must collectively respond. It is indicative of a culture of impunity when it comes to unlawful conduct and misappropriation of funds. Further, the Office of the Auditor-General had noted that despite these unfavourable audit outcomes, corrective action to address the previous period’s qualification areas, particularly relating to accruals, payments and irregular expenditure, have yet to be implemented. 

The IFP echoes the Auditor-General’s concern regarding some projects spending almost all their budget but having very low performance. Disparities like this speak to the heart of poor governance and lead to the trust deficit that currently exists between the public and the government. 

The IFP notes, with concern, the reduction in the Department’s overall budget allocation. This reduction has implications for institutional development and the Community Work Programme. Further, the funding model for the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent is worrying, as this will hamper MISA’s ability to execute its mandate effectively. The IFP strongly suggests a re-evaluation of this model for optimal operation. 

The IFP recognises the integral role of Cogta in addressing numerous and critical needs across the board, especially in such unprecedented times. However, we remain concerned that the vehicles through which large amounts of public finances are channelled have become sieves for unscrupulous individuals to line their personal coffers. And because this inexplicable siphoning of funds predates Covid-19, there is very little of the current financial predicament that can be assigned to the interruption of projects and diversion of funds by the pandemic. 

Honourable Members, the IFP once again demands to see more visible accountability and sanction when it comes to public officials who have been found to have broken the law for self-interest. We simply cannot tolerate this lack of discipline in the financial management of Local Government.

We need to ensure that proper checks and balances are enforced. Failure will be at the expense of those most vulnerable in our society. Those that are desperately reliant on access to essential services will end up paying the ultimate price, yet again.

The IFP supports the Report. 

I thank you.