- Move aimed at establishing clean, accountable and efficient councils…
The Free State Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) will launch ‘Operation Clean Audit’ to assist municipalities on how to use their allocated funds according to the book.
MEC Thembeni Nxangisa said the move is aimed at tightening controls on the use of public funds and to deal with mismanagement by council in the province.
The launch of the initiatives comes hot on the heels of a damning report by the Auditor General (AG), which painted a bleak picture of the state of municipal finances around the country and the Free State particularly.
The report revealed that expenditure by municipalities peaked at R4.1 billion in the past financial year, owing to increases in unauthorised spending, among other reasons.
Cogta officials on Tuesday told Parliament’s Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Committee during a hybrid sitting that South Africa’s municipalities are drowning in their financial sorrows and the casualties are piling up.
Poor financial audit outcomes and political instability were just some of the issues that led to interventions at 46 municipalities across the country.
Deputy director-general Themba Fosi said the non-improvement of outcomes in the Free State were characterised by a lack of discipline to implement the basic accounting principles of promptly processing and reconciling transactions, proper record keeping and regular reviews of work done by management.
Another reason for the lack of improvement was the unwillingness to comply with legislation, specifically relating to supply chain management.
Nxangisa said in a bid to help ailing councils, the Free State had to place a number of them under provincial curatorship after invoking Section 139 of the constitution.
He indicated in the 2019/20 financial year, Masilonyana, Mafube and Maluti-a-Phofung local municipalities were all placed under administration.
In the same breath intervention was invoked in Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality, Matjhabeng, Letsemeng and Kopanong local municipalities under Section 106 of the Municipal Systems Act, in an effort to root out any suspected maleficence and to ensure clean and accountable local governance.
Nxangisa said this during his mid-year budget vote speech held virtually yesterday (Thurs) as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown regulations.
The MEC indicated municipal officials tasked with handling finances would have to be better prepared to account for audits. In some instances, officials from the provincial government will be deployed to assist municipalities to comply better.
“In building more effective and efficient municipalities, attention has to be given to improving their operations. Among others, we will put resources aside for what we call ‘Operation Clean Audit’. More resources will be deployed to assist municipalities to account better for public funds; this will be done through building capacity of municipal employees responsible for finances,” he explained.
Nxangisa added the overall role of his department is to contribute towards ending the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality, which are a burden for the poorest of the poor.
In order to achieve this goal, Cogta had to be “fit for purpose, agile, flexible and responsive to the needs of the people on the ground”.
Nxangisa also bemoaned the worrying and increasing trend of gender based violence (GBV), rape and femicide in society, adding the Free State has not been immune to this scourge.
“Our province is not immune to these barbaric acts. The department organised a number of activities with our social partners to curb violence, one such event was the ‘Men Against Gender Abuse’ march held in partnership with ‘Not in My Name’ group and other organisations.”
Cogta also held a summit on GBV in partnership with the Commission on Gender Equality (GCE), calling everyone to action in stopping violence directed at women and children.
In this financial year, the department plans to establish ‘efficient, clean and accountable’ municipalities in the Free State.
The MEC said this could be achieved through capacitating stakeholders within Cogta’s sphere of governance, including communities, councillors and municipal officials.
“At the heart of this is the employment of skilled individuals who are central in delivering an efficient, effective and clean administration,’ he noted.
Furthermore, municipalities are expected to draw a ‘Single Land Use Scheme’ in the next five years to help them meet this target.
Nxangisa pointed out Cogta is in the process of drafting the Free State Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Regulations for adoption in the next financial year.
The department also plans to establish the Free State Municipal Legal Advisors Forum in Xhariep and the Fezile Dabi District Municipalities, with the aim of extending these platforms to all regions of the province by the end of the year.
“The forums will go a long way in flattening the curve on the increasing litigation claims against municipalities,” he pointed out.
He added traditional leadership in the province has an important role to play in the extension of democracy and accountability to communities.