AG warns of total collapse in service delivery in SA

Auditor-general Tsakani Maluleke has warned South Africa is fast running out of time to fix the country’s 257 municipalities, saying it is “urgent” to arrest the decline of the local layer of government as political instability is hampering them from delivering services.

In an interview with Sunday World, Maluleke said a culture of non-compliance with procurement laws and a lack of accountability had weakened local municipalities.

“It is now urgent that we get municipalities to build the type of capability that is required. It is now urgent that we get the funds that we do have available andspent in line with the service delivery needs of the citizens.

“It is now critical that the culture within which municipalities operate shifts from where it is now to one where there is a focus on performance, a focus on transparency and accountability,” she said.

Maluleke said provincial governments, the national executive and parliament needed to play their roles to ensure that municipalities are saved.

At the heart of what is crippling many municipalities’ ability to deliver services to residents is political instability within councils, which spills over into the administration of municipalities.

“We can’t continue to neglect local government,” she said.

Earlier this month, rating agency Ratings Afrika said South African municipalities were on the brink of collapse, noting that six of the country’s eight major metropolitan municipalities were financially unsustainable.

In her report, Maluleke noted that last year, the department of cooperative governance reported that 64 municipalities were dysfunctional due to poor governance, weak institutional capacity, poor financial management, corruption and political instability. By June last year, 23 municipalities were under administration or provincial intervention, which had increased to 33 municipalities by February this year.

“The country’s aspirations to improve the quality of life of all citizens should be most evident at municipal level through the provision of water, sanitation, electricity, refuse services, roads and infrastructure, as well as through enabling economic development. Unfortunately, this is not the case,” she wrote.

Municipalities and municipal entities were responsible for an estimated expenditure budget of R509-billion in 2020-21.

Maluleke said her office has been swift in referring irregularities to law enforcement agencies in instances where municipal officials did not take corrective actions flowing from the audit outcomes.

This is after the Public Audit Management Amendment Act came into force in 2018.

By April, the office of the AG was dealing with 327 material irregularities, which led to a total financial loss of R14.7-billion across all spheres of government.

Maluleke said her message to the leadership of the country was that it should have a singular focus on building public institutions by hiring competent people who are ethical and accountable.

“Institutions take a long time to build, they can be destroyed in a short space of time. It’s now urgent that we switch our focus towards rebuilding them,” Maluleke said.

 

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