News24

64 municipalities in dire straits

2009-10-21 22:57

Johannesburg - At least 64 municipalities were on the financial distress list, a report on the state of local government in South Africa revealed on Wednesday.

"From evidence to date, it is clear that much of local government is indeed in distress, and that this state of affairs has become deeply rooted within our system of governance," the document said.

The assessment, carried out in all nine provinces, found that there was an overall vacancy rate of 12% for senior managers in local government.

The Northern Cape had the highest vacancy rates and Gauteng was the only province that had all chief financial officer (CFO) posts filled.

Gender equity in senior positions was also poor with only 9% of municipal managers nationwide being women.

Removing bad apples

The document stated that procedural mechanisms "must" be in place to remove those who were not performing and those involved in irregularities.

Municipal managers of eight Western Cape municipalities were suspended, three in Mpumalanga and two in Limpopo.

"The regularity with which senior managers and municipal managers find themselves suspended by councils is an urgent issue to be addressed in respect to the separation of powers in municipalities."

The national report was an initiative by Sicelo Shiceka, Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

The assessments were designed to ascertain the root causes of distress in many of the country's 283 municipalities in order to inform a national turn-around strategy for local government.

Lack of skills

Insufficient municipal capacity due to lack of scarce skills was one of the department's main challenges, along with poor financial management, corruption, and service delivery delays.

The report found that skills scarcity was deepened by the decline of municipal professional associations and poor linkages between local government and the tertiary education sector.

"Functional overreach and complexity are forcing many municipalities into distress mode, exacerbated by the poor leadership and support from other spheres and stakeholders."

Service failures by municipalities were attributed to elements of "uneven and unstable" governance.

Few financial resources

"There is evidence of a high incidence of irregular or inappropriate appointments, coupled with low capacities, poor skills development programmes and weak institutional management.
"Those municipalities in remote areas experience the added challenge of access to skills and little understanding of their spatial and economic realities."

Weaker and more vulnerable municipalities also faced complex rural development problems while more stable municipalities dealt with increased urban growth.

The report found that the distressed municipalities lacked financial and human resources to deliver on their mandate and citizens' expectations.

SAPA