Parliament, Sunday, 29 November 2020 – The Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) is of the considered view that generally, the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government’s Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) does not inspire confidence by its slow turnaround in resolving some of the challenges that cripple municipalities in the province.
The committee was in the province this weekend on an oversight programme to assess the state of the identified municipalities that include districts and local municipalities.
The committee raised its unhappiness on non-attendance of its meetings by the provincial government’s MEC for COGTA, Mr Sipho Hlomuka. The committee remains of the view that resolutions of challenges facing the municipalities require cooperation from all the spheres of government and leavers of the state.
According to the committee there are curative legislative prescripts that are offered by the Constitution and the Municipal Systems Act to remedy some of the challenges faced by the municipalities which the provincial department of CoGTA has ignored. That ignorance, the committee said, deepens the challenges faced by the municipalities.
The committee is concerned that UMkhanyakude District Municipality which has not had an ordinary council sitting since 31 March 2020 operates outside the legal framework that requires municipalities to hold one council meeting at least per quarter. Also, the council has not considered unauthorised, irregular, wasteful and fruitless (UIWF) expenditure investigation reports, some of which have been outstanding for about five years.
To date, the municipality has UIWF expenditure of R2.7 billion, the second highest in the province and, is among the top 10 municipalities in the country. The committee attributes the municipality’s crisis partly on negligence on the part of the provincial department of CoGTA.
As a result, the committee resolved that the council of the municipality must, within the next 14 days, sit to deal with all the outstanding matters of UIWF investigations and all other matters within the council’s purview. In the event of failure of the council to meet, the provincial department must provide the committee with valid reasons for failure to meet. Furthermore, the committee has instructed the provincial department of Cogta to, within 30 days indicate why it has not instituted section 139 intervention in the municipality.
Following the council sitting to consider, among other things, investigation reports, the committee said, the Anti-corruption task team must provide it with a report no later than 31 January 2021 on all issues within the municipality over the last 9 years.
Lastly, the committee has resolved to undertake an in-loco site visit, between now and the end of January 20201, to UMkhanyakude District Municipality and local municipalities within the district to assess first-hand challenges within the district. “What we want is to ensure that municipalities are functional for the benefit of the people to ensure that service delivery is of a requisite quality,” said Mr Mkhuleko Hlengwa, the Chairperson of the committee.
With regards to Mpofana Local Municipality which received a disclaimed audit opinion for the 2018/19 financial year, the committee expressed its concern over the lack of progress in instituting consequence management in accordance with section 171 (4) of the MFMA.
While the committee welcomes the institution of criminal proceedings, it highlighted its disappointment on the slow pace of internal consequence management and on the lack of action on the audit action plan, with only 7 of the 49 matters of emphasis resolved.
The effectiveness of Section 139 intervention into the municipality was also questioned by the committee especially in improving the financial position of the municipality. Despite this, the committee notes the information with appreciation that there is stability in governance structures such as the Municipal Public Accounts Committee.
Regarding Richmond Local Municipality, the committee welcomed the information from the provincial department of Cogta on progress of Section 106 investigation although the report is long overdue. The committee has called for tabling of the report to the municipal council to ensure consequence management against those found in the wrong.
The committee has also called for the implementation of recommendations that are in the UIWF report that has not been condoned. In line with this, the committee has called for urgent recovery of finances regarding fruitless expenditure from the fingered officials who were involved in fruitless expenditure within the municipality.
The committee welcomes the dismissal of the Manager: Project Management Unit following the investigation on financial misconduct. Also, the committee has raised concerns over the matter of contracted consultants by the municipality and paid them R540 000 for the preparation of financial statements that did not meet the requirements of section 122 (1) of the MFMA.
Regarding uMgungundlovu District Municipality, the committee welcomes progress made by the Special Investigating Unit on investigations into the affairs of the municipality. The committee has decided to afford the council of the municipality enough space to deal with referrals to it and which the council will consider by 11 December 2020. The committee expects to receive all reports on presidential proclamations in January 2021 for consideration.
The committee has also called on the provincial department of CoGTA to conclude section 106 investigation into the municipality which must lead to effective consequence management.
On Nquthu Local Municipality’s legal matters, the committee expressed its concern over them, but has resolved to afford the legal process space to conclude before it considers substantive matters of the municipality. It has also highlighted its uneasiness with stakeholders preferring to resolve disagreements through legal processes than the available intergovernmental relations framework that aims to create a platform for cooperation.
On the issue of the appointment of senior managers in positions that were not advertised, the committee expressed its rejection of that and said it is wrong and unacceptable.
Regarding Zululand District Municipality, the committee has criticised the decision not to investigate irregular expenditure to the tune of R123 million which it said undercuts consequence management. It also questioned the rationale behind the approval of deviations despite the existence of an opportunity to go on tender. It said that approval creates fertile ground for corruption to take place.
The committee has urged the municipality to look into the issue of shoddy preparation of financial statements that did not meet the requirements of section 122 of the MFMA and, which the committee said if it is not improved, will always lead to qualification.
ISSUED BY THE PARLIAMENTARY COMMUNICATION SERVICES ON BEHALF OF THE CHAIRPERSON OF THE STANDING COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS, MR MKHULEKO HLENGWA
For media enquiries or interviews with the Chairperson, please contact the committee’s Media Officer:
Name: Malatswa Molepo (Mr)
Parliamentary Communication Services
Tel: 021 403 8438
Cell: 081 512 7920