Mission abort on Project Consolidate

2011-03-12 18:07

With less than three months before local elections, government has ditched its original plans to transform dysfunctional municipalities and come up with a new idea.

Last month Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs’ Minister Sicelo Shiceka announced a new strategy to deal with problematic municipalities going into the May 18 elections.

At the last municipal elections in 2006 Project Consolidate was just over a year old and it was the government’s strategy to transform 136 dysfunctional municipalities into entities capable of service delivery.

Reports on these municipalities by the auditor-general have cast doubt on whether Project Consolidate has helped. Audits of 16 municipalities in Northern Cape only reported a single improvement, while the remainder got worse audit ratings.
Cooperative governance and traditional affairs spokesperson Vuyelwa Vika said one of the weaknesses of Project Consolidate was that it was not sustainable and that in the last two years of its implementation (2004 and 2006), symptoms of fatigue had emerged.

“The programme could not ­resolve persistent internal challenges such as high staff turnover of the municipal management, corruption and noncompliance in practices,” she said.

Last month Shiceka – successor to Sydney Mufamadi’s then Department of Provincial and Local Government Affairs – said his ministry had conducted an ­assessment of local government that had revealed “a number of problems within municipalities”.

The minister has decided to deal with the problems through a new strategy, the Cabinet-approved Local Government Turn Around Strategy.

According to the department, the main focus of this strategy will be “the development of an ­accountable, responsive, efficient and effective local government system in South Africa”, a goal Project Consolidate had also set out to achieve.

As part of the new strategy Shiceka has approved five ­flagship projects designed to ­accelerate service delivery.

The projects, which are to be supported by the department, will involve institutions and stakeholders such as business owners and residents in the management of service delivery.

One of the projects is the business adopt-a-municipality project, designed to foster a closer working relationship between government and the private sector.

The department plans to put all 283 municipalities in South Africa up for adoption by private companies but will prioritise adoption of the 66 most vulnerable municipalities.

About the new plan, Vika said: “The approach of looking at municipalities as just municipalities without taking into consideration their specific socio-economic conditions as well as historical deficiencies that were different and specific to each municipality was also a serious weakness that the strategy attempts to address.

“Taking up from where Project Consolidate left off, the strategy is intended to resolve the issues of dysfunctional municipalities and achieve a local governance system that is efficient, effective, accountable and responsive to communities.”

Since the last elections in 2006, thousands of township and squatter camp dwellers across the country, voting with their matchboxes, have protested violently against dysfunctional municipal governments.

They did not see improvement in municipal service delivery and they didn’t regard Project Consolidate as the saviour it was promised to be.

The affairs of the Kungwini municipality are now in such disarray that the town will be incorporated into the Tshwane metro ­after the election (main story).
Promising that the project would speed up the delivery of sanitation, water, electricity, refuse removal, street lights and roads, Mufamadi and fellow Cabinet members hailed it as a new era in municipal government.

Project Consolidate evaluation reports on the department’s website tend to conclude that the project, despite facing many problems, had improved service delivery in many towns.

And with the new plan, maybe business will succeed where Project Consolidate failed.

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