War on municipalities

SO THAT's it then. The South African government has begun to take serious action against corrupt municipalities.

In trying to salvage the final bits of local government integrity, the government has begun to drench some corrupt municipalities in petrol and to burn them.

This week, the National Treasury said it planned to invoke some sections of the country's constitution against Free State's Nala local municipality, and to stop all financial transfers to the municipality.

To me, this is a declaration of war on municipalities that continue to mismanage funds and others like Nala should wake up as I suspect their turn is coming.

This is also a sign that the rights of the state – which claims to be fiercely opposed to mismanagement of funds – have won.

Treasury said in terms of the allocations for the local government medium-term expenditure framework for 2012/13 - 2014/15, as published in the 2012 Division of Revenue Act (DoRA), Nala was allocated R203.9m for the 2012/13 financial year.

It said this allocation constituted 63% of the municipality's 2012/13 total budget of R321.5m. Of the 2012/13 allocation, R81.6m has already been transferred to the municipality.

For the 2013/14 and 2014/15 financial years, the municipality's DoRA allocations are R205.5m and R220.7m, respectively.

But Nala had repeatedly failed to comply with municipal budget and reporting regulations including, among other things, failure to submit the 2009/10 and 2010/11 audit reports, the 2009/10 and 2010/11 annual financial statements, the 2009/10 and 2010/11 MFMA Section 72 reports and annual and performance assessment reports.

Treasury is empowered by Section 216(2) of the constitution to stop the transfer of funds to any organ of state that commits a serious or persistent breach of the measures prescribed to promote transparency, accountability and the effective financial management of the economy, debt and the public sector.

The government has to be lauded for this action against Nala. Nevertheless, it should go beyond punishing municipalities that fail to submit audits and so forth, but also target those that correctly submit audits but are corrupt to the core in many other ways.

While the ANC and government are still contemplating the idea of doing away with tenders, the government should investigate the process of state tender allocations and what characters win these tenders.

Treasury's expertise will be highly appreciated in this regard.

Every week I get calls from frustrated South African citizens, complaining bitterly and alleging that rampant corruption in Sedibeng and Emfuleni municipal districts is destroying their lives.

These municipalities are situated 40km south of Johannesburg and include Vanderbijlpark, Vereeniging, Evaton, Sharperville and Boipatong among others.

The municipalities are part of the 95% of South Africa’s 283 municipalities that received unclean audits after auditor general Terence Nombembe's investigation earlier this year.

In these areas, allegations of very lucrative tenders going to well-known tavern owners abound. Government's low-income houses are allegedly sold or given (for free) to friends while actual beneficiaries, who applied many years ago, do not receive them.

Compared to Soweto, South Africa's biggest township, these townships are very small but they still do not have tarred roads while about 99% of Soweto's streets are tarred.

But the townships of Emfuleni and Sedibeng have played an amazing role in the struggle against apartheid.

Former president Nelson Mandela chose Sharpeville for signing into law the new constitution of the country on December 10 1996.

Of course, mismanagement of funds is not confined to these municipalities. It is surely happening in other municipalities across the country too, and should be tackled in all of them.

In many townships, lack of service delivery has always been a problem. But the municipalities responsible for this have seldom been held accountable for their actions year after year.

For years the problem of corruption in municipalities has seemed impregnable. But I am convinced that the fortress seems to be collapsing swiftly.

 - Fin24

* Mzwandile Jacks is a freelance journalist.


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