Bring in the A-team, please

2012-07-28 11:16

The release of the audit reports for municipalities should send fear and trepidation through the not-so-hallowed halls of our municipal buildings.

But it doesn’t.

Officials at all levels are perfectly secure in the knowledge that no matter how badly their municipalities fared in the yearly audits, their jobs are safe.

And this, dear readers, should fill us – the people at the receiving end of municipalities’ incompetence – with fear and trepidation.

The key to the woeful state of municipalities, according to Auditor-General Terence Nombembe this week, is the lack of accountability.

Nombembe tries year after year to coax municipal officials into understanding the importance of their work – that municipalities are at the coalface of delivery, the face of government.

Most of the time, however, it’s a face we’d like to punch in the nose.

Because after 18 years of a democratic South Africa, incompetence cannot be an excuse for the bucket system, or for the lack of clean water, or for poor housing.

At a time when communities have become more complex due to population growth, migration and urbanisation, we need South Africa’s A-team, not the remedial class.

Would municipal officials take more responsibility if they thought they might lose their jobs if they didn’t?

Would you make a point of documenting expenditure properly if you knew that next year you would not be around if you didn’t?

The answer is obvious, but not one which is ever discussed in the place where it matters – the ANC.

The ruling party, which is in charge of most municipalities, blames the legacy of apartheid when we ask why municipalities can’t get their acts together.

If President Jacob Zuma can have a yearly Cabinet reshuffle, why can’t he reshuffle municipal officials based on their audit performance?

Perhaps then officials will take accounting more seriously, because they might just have to account by giving up their cushy jobs.

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