Zuma-Zille debate

2008-06-30 00:00

Delivering his mid-year assessment report on municipalities last week, KwaZulu-Natal’s finance MEC, Zweli Mkhize, noted how payment failures between one municipality and another are straining municipal finances. The case in point is that of uMgungungdlovu District Municipality which is owed some R23,9 million by the

uMngeni Municipaity for water and sanitation. These are, moreover, functions that ought already to have been transferred from the one municipality to the other and the slowness of the transfer process has exacerbated the financial problem.

The legislature’s portfolio committees on finance and on local government have set up a task team to look into the transfer problems, but there is surely a need for something more. As Mkhize noted, several factors contribute to the poor performance of some municipalities — poor cash-flow management, lack of fiscal control and ineffective financial management. The upshot is inadequate service delivery and, judging by the uMgungundlovu-uMngeni example, there is a knock-on domino effect that could well incapacitate much of the province.

As IFP spokespeople observed, these unsatisfactory mid-term reports come in year after year, but little effective action is taken. The IFP is right, too, to point out that it is at the local level that the public interfaces most directly with the government, so these failures are particularly damaging. It has been suggested before that the whole structure of district municipalities is inherently flawed and that something else needs to be devised. These perennial performance problems lend support to this argument. It is past time to move forward.

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