Pretoria - The amount paid on salaries for municipal employees across the country increased by nearly R7bn between 2013 and 2014, Statistics South Africa said on Tuesday.This was despite the fact that the number of municipal employees had decreased by 1 229, from 307 216 in 2013 to 305 987 in 2014, Statistician General Pali Lehohla told reporters in Pretoria.Lehohla said the drop in positions was due to some employees being moved to provincial government as well as the termination of some vacant and part-time posts.The Gauteng province spent the most on salaries, with R22.1bn last year, compared to R20.3bn in 2013. The second highest province was the Western Cape, at R12.5bn from R11bn the previous year.The Northern Cape spent the least in 2013, at R1.5bn as well as in 2014 with R1.7bn.The statistics included the salaries of full-time and part-time employees in metropolitan, district and local municipalities.Lehohla said the report, entitled Non-financial census of municipalities, would assist the government in addressing some of the problems at local government level."What we have done is to try and provide details, information and statistics around how municipalities function, in particular, in the area of service delivery."This level of detail is very crucial as the country looks at the policy area of local government, which [talks about] this programme of going 'Back to Basics'."The benchmarks in the report would assist government in monitoring how well the programme was going.The report also revealed that there were 44 674 vacant municipal positions country-wide in 2014.The Free State had the highest vacancy rate at 26.6%, the North West followed second with 19.4% and Limpopo in third place with 19.2%.The departments with the highest vacancies across all the municipalities were Road and Transport, Community and Social Services as well as Electricity.District municipalities, in particular, were in urgent need of staff in the electricity department, with a vacancy rate of 43%.