POLITICAL NEWS - Gauteng’s municipalities continue to flounder under poor leadership, lax financial controls and a lack of oversight, says the Democratic Alliance (DA).
This follows the tabling of 2019-2020 annual report for the provincial department cooperative governance and traditional affairs in the legislature on Tuesday morning.
The report details several instances where the department failed to use its powers to implement urgent measures needed to rescue collapsing Gauteng municipalities, according to DA MPL Mervyn Cirota.
Accused of doing nothing while municipal services deteriorated in impoverished areas, MEC for human settlements and cooperative governance Lebogang Maile said in the report’s foreword that the department’s approach to distressed municipalities was to avoid overreaching.
“Our posture as a provincial government is not to overreach or seek to run municipalities, but rather in line with our
constitutional responsibilities to strengthen our Section 154 support towards our municipalities so that they in turn can fulfil their Section 152 obligations,” he wrote.
“It is only when this systematic, methodical, and structured support has failed that we will be invoking our powers in terms of Section 139. Hence our intervention in Tshwane where there was a clear collapse of governance leading to service delivery failures and backlogs.”
But according to the annual report, Maile failed to meet the departments own oversight targets. The report points out three municipalities, namely Emfuleni Local Municipality, Merafong Local Municipality and Lesedi District Municipality, which were earmarked for functional statutory council committees. This target was not achieved, the report said, because the research on the functionality of the statutory council was not finalised.
The department also failed to meet several other targets including supporting Merafong Local Municipality to develop the capital expenditure framework, together with the integrated urban development framework. This failure, the department said, was because of the challenges in appointing a service provider.
The department also failed to meet its target to support Emfuleni with repairs and maintenance of the sewer pump stations. This target was not achieved because the department missed the deadline to transfer funds to the implementing agent, namely the Ekurhuleni Water Care Company. For this, the department blamed problems in project and financial management.
“It is high time that MEC Maile prioritises fixing the challenges facing these municipalities that were caused by his own cadres,” said Cirota.
Despite being under administration, Emfuleni remained R4.6 billion in the red, mostly owing to the failure to manage debt to its biggest creditor, Eskom, which was owed R3.2 billion, and Rand Water ,which was owed R1.3 billion.
In the report, Maile noted that the department had conducted a series of bilateral meetings with each of the municipalities in Gauteng, aimed at tackling service delivery, along with administrative and governance challenges.
“We arranged a meeting between Eskom and each of our municipalities to try and craft a way forward in terms of payment of outstanding debt, as well as to iron out issues between our municipalities and Eskom. These fruitful engagements have had positive outcomes whose results will be seen in the years to come,” he said.