Gauteng and the Western Cape are the top performing provinces in terms of the number of municipalities getting clean audits, while KwaZulu Natal has significantly improved since last year. This is according to Minister of Co-Operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Pravin Gordhan. He was speaking at a state of the municipalities debate held this past Tuesday at the National Council of Provinces. Clean audits mean that the municipality conducts its finances in a way it should and observes all laws.
The country’s major provinces might be doing well, but there are still many municipalities that are failing to provide basic services to residents. The problems mentioned at the debate were all too familiar: corruption, irregular spending and incompetencey. “Government’s effort to clean up corruption and speed up service delivery is going to depend on whether we appoint the right people,” said Gordhan.
To make sure the rest of the municipalities catch up, Gordhan revealed his back to basics approach last September. As summarised by Steven Friedman – director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy who also writes a weekly column for Business Day newspaper and BDlive – back to basics entails the following, “Telling councils that they need ‘world class’ systems when the problem is that the street lights don’t work has done huge damage to local government. The new approach rejects this: there will be no new laws or systems, simply a push to get municipalities to do better what they are meant to do. That is far more in sync with what citizens want and what local government needs: but it is also more difficult,” he explains in his column.
“We can certainly celebrate the fact that after 20 years of democracy, we’ve probably done more in service delivery than any other country in this world,” said Gordhan. This is, however, hard to believe given the many service delivery protests we’ve seen across the country.
Some of the municipalities highlighted as doing well were Newcastle (KwaZulu Natal), Zululand (KwaZulu Natal), Thulamela (Limpopo) and Waterberg (Limpopo). Part of the reason for this is because they plan ahead. The minister pointed out that they had submitted their water services and development plans timeously in the years 2012 and 2013. Drakenstein (Western Cape) performed well in terms of medical access, water and sanitation and refuse removal.
Traditionally, the Eastern Cape has been a problem province. Eastern Cape MEC for Local Government and Traditional Affairs Fikile Xasa was also present at the debate. He said out of 45 municipalities, 14 municipalities are not performing, 13 have potential to do great and 18 are doing well, according to Xasa.Those were the numbers given by the MEC and not all municipalities are audited.
Jaco Londt from the DA highlighted another issue. Citing the auditor general’s report on how many municipalities were audited for the year 2013/2014, he said that not all municipalities are audited. Only 3% of municipalities were audited in Limpopo. In the North West and Northern Cape, 22%; Mpumalanga, 24%, the Free State, 30%; Eastern Cape, 35%. KwaZulu Natal, Western Cape and Gauteng were the top three at 70%, 94% and 95%, respectively.
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