Municipal mess: It comes down to someone who hasn’t done their part

2015-04-15 18:26

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Newspapers and the journalists attached to them ought to know that among some of their duties it is not only to inform but to educate their readers. Filling 50% of the report with statistics and graphs, without any meaningful explanation thereof, amounts to shoddy work and journalistic laziness.

It is more useful if the journalist gives context to the report.

Highlighting and emphasising the “war” between Salga and the national treasury is an unnecessary sensationalising of the issues. Blandly stating that “[Salga] told City Press it was illegal to withhold their equitable share money, because this turned it into a ‘conditional grant rather than entitlement, as the Constitution and legislation provide for’” does not assist the reader to fully understand the story because no context or background is provided.

If the various role-players and stakeholders were doing what they are supposed to do the current problems experienced by municipalities would be nonexistent or, at the very least, they would have been easy to solve.

The context: Local government has a constitutional and legislative mandate to provide basic municipal services (water, electricity, sewerage and refuse removal) in a sustainable manner, and efficiently, effectively an economically. Among their other duties municipalities must levy charges and collect revenue due to them from consumers.

On the flipside the consumers – government institutions, companies and individuals – have a duty to pay for those municipal services and goods.

In terms of the Division of Revenue Act local government is entitled to a fair share from the fiscus and the Fiscal and Financial Commission has to ensure that the share does get paid to the municipalities to enable them to fulfil obligations.

Now the questions to the role-players and stakeholders: Do municipalities get their equitable share as constitutionally and legally mandated? Do they collect what is due to them from their customers? Do they use that money according to their constitutional and legislative mandates? Do the consumers (customers) pay their dues to municipalities?

If the answer is “yes” to all these questions then there would be minimal, if any, problems. Then each of the stakeholders should be allowed to comment on what they have done.

It does not make sense – at least to me – how municipalities owe Eskom, water boards and other service providers when they have been paid their fair share by the fiscus and customers. What have they done with the money received by them?

For Salga and the national treasury to threaten each other with court actions is an exercise in futility and an unnecessary ego trip.

Answers should be provided for what each has done with the money given to them. I am of the opinion that it would be better to have side-by-side pieces by Salga, the department of cooperative governance, the national treasury, Eskom, the Water Board and one of the smaller service providers owed by municipalities and let the readers interpret the facts for themselves. For, actually, there are no warring factions in this saga but only those who do and those who don’t do their jobs for the benefit of the citizens.

Finally, the question to residents, the beneficiaries of municipal services: Are you fulfilling your obligations by paying what you are supposed to pay municipalities?

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