Municipalities must meet citizens' expectations

2012-09-11 18:32
Terence Nombembe (File, Sapa)

Terence Nombembe (File, Sapa)

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Johannesburg - Municipal expenses should match citizens' perceptions of service delivery, Auditor General Terence Nombembe said on Tuesday.

"That is, in essence, the acid test of service delivery: not only what [local government] perceive has happened, but what citizens have experienced in real life," he said.

Addressing the SA Local Government Association (Salga) conference in Midrand, Nombembe said there had to be a correlation between what municipalities were spending money on, and the experience of citizens.

"Within the global arena, as the community of auditor generals, it has dawned on us... that this issue of citizen expectation is becoming more and more serious," he said.

Conflicting expectations

"There is an emerging and compelling expectation that people are demanding what they need..."

Nombembe said his office was researching other jurisdictions to see how they related to citizens, to ensure there was a correlation between government financial records and citizens' experiences.

It was important that the AG conduct surveys and get feedback to ensure "at no stage do we have conflicting expectations with citizens".

"We would like to explore this subject, that this issue is given serious attention by Salga," he said.

Nombembe wanted local government to look at ways of working together to achieve clean administrations.

"It is clear that if... we continue to work in isolation, the chances of us achieving greater mileage in local government are going to be compromised," he said.

He suggested regular meetings of local government leaders to find ways of working together.

The arrangement should include Salga, provincial treasuries, the AG's office, provincial government departments and district municipalities.

Sound financial governance

"So that, from time to time, we do get together and say, what would be the ingredient... to achieve sound financial governance in local government?" Nombembe said.

"This does not happen at the moment," he said.

A recent report by Nombembe found that only 13 out of 343 municipalities in South Africa achieved clean audits in the financial year 2011/12.

Local government leaders needed to exhibit the right "tone", through ethical conduct, honesty, and integrity, Nombembe said.

This was difficult to measure, but had to be practised until it became the norm and the culture in local government. "It is the foundation of everything else that we say we want to happen within local government."

Nombembe said the government should not outsource certain core business, including putting together budgets and financial accounts, and providing technical engineering services.

"The activities of government are essential and critical... it's something we cannot outsource."

Therefore, local government needed to create the right environment to encourage people to work for it.

Nombembe was speaking on the second and final day of the Salga conference.

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