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Help for struggling municipalities

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"Based on our assessments and reported, the performance of the majority of the municipalities is below expectation"

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STRUGGLING municipalities in the Northern Cape could receive help from national government.

Minister of CoGTA, Dr Zweli Mkhize, announced interventions to support municipalities in distress on Tuesday.

Mkhize confirmed that his ministry, through the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA), had decided to intervene extensively and urgently in dysfunctional municipalities and those in distress, in relation to the development and maintenance of infrastructure.

“Government’s infrastructure delivery system has been successful at creating new infrastructure over the past 20 years. However, despite several technical capacity building initiatives implemented over the years, there are still many municipalities that are struggling to use funds allocated to them to build or maintain infrastructure,” Mkhize stated. “Others are battling with financial management as well as good governance and administration.”

He added that while MISA currently provided technical support in areas (including roads and stormwater drainage, energy, water and sanitation, solid waste and revenue enhancement as well as the construction of roads) the continued failure to effect turnarounds in several municipalities required further, more intensive, dedicated and radical interventions.

“Based on our assessments and reports, the performance of the majority of the municipalities is below expectation.”

Mkhize pointed out that only seven percent of the country’s municipalities were classified as well-functioning; while about 31 percent were reasonably functional. A total of 31 percent are almost dysfunctional and the remaining 31 percent are dysfunctional.

According to Mkhize, the current situation in municipalities shows limited in-house experience for managing infrastructure projects, handling tender documents and meaningful interaction with contractors, while there is also limited scheduled maintenance of infrastructure taking place.

“These challenges make it difficult for municipalities to spend the funds they obtain from national government to assist them with infrastructure development.

“In the past five years, since 2012/13, a total of R3.4 billion in MIG transfers was stopped and was reallocated from underspending municipalities to better spending municipalities. This is not ideal as it has an inadvertent consequence of penalising municipalities with a lower capacity and hence punishing the poorer communities. This cannot continue, rather alternatives must be found to support service delivery to poorer communities.”

He pointed out further that in the same period, municipalities failed to spend a total of R8.2 billion.

“Between 2013/14 and in the current financial year, 2017/18, a total of 55 municipalities had their annual MIG allocations stopped at least twice. An analysis conducted revealed that these municipalities have various inherent constraints that impede spending. Based on their poor performance, these municipalities can be regarded as distressed or dysfunctional. They are therefore unable to provide the necessary services to people in the required efficient, professional and caring manner.”

Mkhize stated that the focus of the assistance would be to provide infrastructure planning, delivery, operation and maintenance and infrastructure management, financial management as well as governance and administration issues.

“Included in the skills set that is necessary to provide the support are scarce skills such as civil engineering, construction and project management, financial/accounting expertise, town and regional planning as well as expertise in governance and administration.”

A total of 27 priority district municipalities as well as the 55 municipalities that are regarded as distressed or dysfunctional will be assisted.

“In the short term, the investment in skills development in municipalities will also continue to be a priority. We will emphasise youth development and empowerment, while also not neglecting workers who are already in the system.”

The proposal will also include the continuation with the existing apprenticeship and youth graduate programmes, offering bursaries as well as artisan placement programmes.

“All supported municipalities will be expected to develop and adopt financial recovery plans to ensure that they become financially stable and have the capacity to independently fund their commitments.”

Consideration will also be given to curbing non-revenue water losses through improving water conservation and water demand management in municipalities.

“Municipalities contribute to water losses through poorly maintained infrastructure within their water reticulation networks and improper asset management.

“A reduction in water losses will save the precious commodity while contributing towards improved revenue collection and reliability of water supply. MISA will also provide support in this regard.”

He stressed that the ultimate result of the proposals would be better performing municipalities that are able to provide the services, such as water and sanitation, refuse removal, better roads and electricity.

Mkhize will be embarking on provincial visits as part of the consultative process to determine the nature and extent of the problem faced by municipalities, following which he will announce concrete intervention plans as well as the details of the affected municipalities.