Overhaul plan for local govt

2009-10-08 00:00

A MAJOR overhaul of the local government sector is on the cards, according to Deputy Minister of Co-operative Governance, Yunus Carrim.

Speaking at the annual conference of the Institute of Municipal Finance Officers in Johannesburg on Tuesday, Carrim said it is clear that the current model of local government is not working. He pointed to countrywide service delivery protests, complaints that sewerage, road and electricity infrastructure systems are falling apart and frequent allegations of crooked officials and councillors.

Besides, municipalities are not financially viable because they are wholly dependent on national and provincial funding to survive.

Carrim proposed that both short- and long-term changes should be considered, including:

• The re-drawing of municipal boundaries. “Some of us believe that the Municipal Demarcation Board needs to give serious attention to the re-drawing of the boundaries of municipalities that are not financially viable,” he said.

• A review of the two-tier system of district and local municipalities.

• More help from other tiers of government. “We are also thinking of requiring provinces to play a direct role in the management of the municipal infrastructure grant,” Carrim said, adding that part of the support that national and provincial governments can offer is simply to pay the debts they owe municipalities. “The minister is committed to actively intervening through the cabinet and other structures to ensure that government departments pay the debt … Of course, the arrears will not all be paid immediately, but we are determined to see improvements over time.”

• Changing legislation to get rid of cumbersome financial reporting that is placing a major cost and administrative burden on municipalities.

• Reviewing funding models for local government.

• Tightening internal controls and ensuring that municipal integrated development plans are productively linked with provincial and national development plans.

• Effective capacity-building of municipal councillors and officials. Carrim said the aim is to achieve greater professional administration by preventing political appointments in administrative posts and discouraging political parties from interfering at that level through “populist and short-term measures”.

Carrim said the proposed changes will not happen overnight. “There will be full and considered discussions with all the key stakeholders, and the public will be given space to have its say.

“Some of the changes agreed to may be introduced before the 2011 local government election, but most will probably follow the 2011 elections,” he added.

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