Task team to aid City

2018-05-16 16:00
COGTA Minister Zweli Mkhize expresses concern over worsening situation at Msunduzi.

COGTA Minister Zweli Mkhize expresses concern over worsening situation at Msunduzi. (File)

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COGTA Minister Zweli Mkhize, who on Tuesday disclosed that a whopping 87 municipalities across the country are either dysfunctional or distressed, said he was concerned about the worsening situation at Msunduzi Municipality.

Responding to a question by Cope MP Diedre Carter during the department’s budget vote debate in Parliament’s Old Assembly, Mkhize said a task team would be dispatched to the municipality to investigate the nature of problems at the local government.

While Mkhize did not give details on the extent of the department’s intervention in Msunduzi, his spokesperson, Legadima Losi, said the team that will arrive at the municipality at a yet to be announced date, will interview various role-players at the council.

“They would then compile a report for the minister. The minister will use the report to decide on how best to intervene at the municipality,” he said.

Mkhize told MPs that the 87 municipalities, which include Msunduzi, represented a massive increase compared to 55 municipalities that were categorised as either depressed or dysfunctional during the March assessment.

“Our major concern right now is the municipalities which are becoming distressed or dysfunctional, including those that are regressing in audit outcomes,” Mkhize said.

“There are some that have been performing which had good revenue, which are now eroding their revenue base and eating into their reserves or diverting conditional grants for operational expenditure.”

A further 31% of municipalities are “almost dysfunctional”, Mkhize continued. Only the remaining 38% are either “reasonably functional” (31%) or “well-functioning” (seven percent).

In the troubled North West, 12 of the 22 municipalities in the province were in the category of serious financial distress, eight of which received disclaimers in audit outcomes.

Nationwide, 11 municipalities are currently under “Section 139” administration by their provinces. Six of those are in KwaZulu-Natal; two in the Free State; and one each for the Eastern Cape and Western Cape.

To find a permanent solution to non-viable municipalities, Mkhize recommended that the next administration conduct a comprehensive review of the wall-to-wall municipalities, focusing on size and structure.

“In addition to the above ... distress may be occasioned by mismanagement due to political instability or interference, corruption and incompetence.”

The department will thus have to differentiate between problems as a result of human weaknesses, such as incompetence or corruption, and situations where there are genuine structural constraints.

Mkhize also informed MPs that 27 municipalities received disclaimers from the auditor-general of South Africa in 2016/17.

Msunduzi, which early this year received a disclaimer, the worst audit opinion the AG can issue, is in serious financial trouble, with the council having emptied its reserve funds.

Carter said while Cope welcomed Mkhize’s intervention in Msunduzi, the party was mindful of the fact that previous interventions at the municipalities had failed to yield any positive results.

“There is a history of a total lack of accountability, something that has resulted in the gross abuse of power currently being committed with impunity at the municipality. We have over many years witnessed a myriad of interventions, investigations and even the municipality being placed under administration but with little or no improvement at all. The real power to change the fortunes of the municipality lies with the electorate,” she said.

The department had intended to send its task team in earlier but had to put things on ice following an outbreak of violent protests in the North West province where 12 of that province’s municipalities had been put under administration.

Read more on:    msunduzi municipality

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