Only 40% of municipal managers have right qualifications

2014-02-23 14:00

Fewer than half of the country’s municipal managers and their municipalities’ chief financial officers have the skills they need to do their jobs.

A poll of municipalities in six provinces by City Press has revealed that only 40% of municipal managers and 34% of their CFOs have met Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s deadline to acquire the appropriate qualifications.

The officials work in 164 municipalities in Western Cape, Free State, Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Northern Cape and Eastern Cape, according to information supplied by their provincial cooperative governance departments. Information from Limpopo, North West and KwaZulu-Natal cooperative governance departments was not forthcoming.

Only 66 municipal managers and 57 CFOs from the municipalities in the six provinces complied with Gordhan’s minimum competency levels which were published in 2007. Although they were given a deadline of January last year to comply or face losing their jobs, many have still not complied.

In his Budget speech this week, Gordhan is expected to allocate municipalities R40.5?billion in terms of the Division of Revenue Act. This includes R14.4?billion in municipal infrastructure grants. In terms of his standards, municipal managers should have a relevant Bachelor’s degree, a certificate in municipal finance management and five years’ experience at senior management level.

CFOs and directors in metros and large municipalities should have an honours degree, a postgraduate certificate or registration as a chartered accountant and seven years’ senior management experience. Their counterparts in smaller municipalities should have a relevant Bachelor’s degree and a certificate in municipal finance.

But out of Mpumalanga’s 21 municipalities only Mbombela’s municipal manager, Xolani Mzobe, has the required qualifications. He has a law degree and a project management qualification. Only two of the province’s CFOs?–?employed in the Chief Albert Luthuli and Lekwa municipalities?–?met the standard.

In the Free State, all 24 managers and CFOs were not compliant by the deadline. Provincial cooperative governance spokesperson Senne Bogatsu said all municipalities had submitted motivations on why they had not done so.

The new Municipal Demarcation Board, appointed this week, has advertised a tender for an audit of the qualifications held by senior municipal officials to be conducted this year.

Treasury spokesperson Phumza Macanda said after consulting with the cooperative governance department, they decided to extended the deadline by another 18 months.

Macanda said 269 of the country’s 278 municipalities had applied for an extension. They “demonstrated that they had taken reasonable steps towards compliance, including having officials registering for relevant training”, but they needed more time to complete their courses.

“But what cannot be tolerated is the continued employ in key financial management and supply chain management positions of persons who do not have relevant skills or experience and who have made no effort to address this,” she said.

Attempts to obtain provincial figures from the cooperative governance departments of KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and North West, with a combined 114 municipalities, were futile.

Spokesperson for the South African Local Government Association (Salga), Buhle Ngwenya, defended the officials, saying that a failure to complete courses did not mean they were incompetent.

“A strict interpretation of the regulations provides that no person may be employed if the [courses] are not completed. However, Treasury allows managers to inform [it] of appointees not complying when appointed and submitting a plan on how it would be achieved. [Salga] supports the principle of professionalisation of local government,” Ngwenya said.

But Municipal IQ economist Karen Heese said the low level of compliance showed that the problem was not a priority.

“Policies are in place and all we need now is the political will to implement them. But the fact that many municipalities haven’t complied means that this isn’t treated as a priority. There must be pressure for officials to perform,” Heese said.

Chief executive for the Institute for Municipal Finance Officers Patrick Mnisi, said some municipalities ignored Treasury deadlines because they faced few consequences.

He said it was vital that municipal officials be properly trained as this affected service delivery.

“It is impossible to get service delivery if the financial management in a municipality is in a shambles. If you get service delivery it will not be sustainable,” he said.

Phindile Ntliziywana, a researcher with the Multi-Level government initiative, asked if Treasury was prepared to fire officials who did not meet its minimum qualification standards.

“Treasury has made U-turns on the deadline and that says this was not a strict deadline?–?just a way to encourage these guys to comply,” said Ntliziywana.


Grade 9 gets you far in the Northern Cape

A Northern Cape municipal manager landed his job with a grade 9 education four years after finance minister Pravin Gordhan issued regulations that council bosses at least have a degree.

Gordhan’s minimum competency levels were published in 2007, but Aubrey Baartman landed his job as manager of the Nama Khoi municipality in Springbok in in 2011. He earns R950 000 a year.

Baartman manages a R205 million annual budget.

Last year’s auditor-general report into local government finances revealed that Nama Khoi’s books were in shambles. Outgoing auditor-general Terence Nombembe was scathing about the frequent violation of tender procedure, and the unavailability of documents to prove what was spent.

He also warned that the municipality’s financial stability was “under threat” as revenue was not collected and the budget was overspent by R24.8 million.

Baartman said that he could not comment on the matter until the Nama Khoi council sat to discuss it, which it is scheduled to do soon.

“There’s nothing I can say until then. But I do have an N2 level 6 (diploma) in public and finance administration from Stellenbosch University,” he said.

Afrikaner rights group Afriforum has gone to the Kimberley High Court to force Baartman to produce his qualifications and reveal how he got the job.

The office of the Public Protector in the Northern Cape found in March 2012 that Baartman had not finished high school.

“This office wishes to report that following the receipt of information, this office requested the Department of Education in the Western Cape province to confirm that Mr Baartman had matriculated from the Morester Secondary School in 1978. The department reverted stating that Mr Baartman, according to their records, in 1976 unsuccessfully completed grade 10 (Standard 8) only,” reads the public protector’s letter to the municipality.

Baartman said: “I’m not aware of a public protector’s investigation against me.”--Sizwe sama Yende

Municipalites Audit

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