The lack of skills and expertise remains an obstacle to improving service delivery, says United Democratic Movement (UDM) secretary-general Bongani Msomi.
He adds that this challenge persists within municipalities across the country and that other problems further contribute to backlogs in service delivery.
“Certain municipalities cannot generate their own revenue; hence, they depend on conditional grants by Parliament. Also, the budget cycle for municipalities stifles progress made in service delivery, as their financial year is not in line with that of legislatures and Parliament,” Msomi notes.
He also feels the shortage of internal auditors to monitor expenditure leads to challenges being detected at late stages of projects.
Further, Msomi adds that current government policies do not fit South Africa’s situation and that the focus should shift from creating more townships to the development of rural areas.
He says that municipal budgets should also be in line with the cycle of provincial legislatures and Parliament.
“Legislatures and Parliament must provide a pool of experts and auditors to assist municipalities that experience difficulties in carrying out their mandates.”
As far as the tendering process is concerned, Msomi suggests independent tender committees, comprising all stakeholders, including the public, should be established to eradicate corruption.
Considering auditor-general Terence Nombembe’s 2009/10 consolidated municipal audit report, Msomi says he is concerned that there is little improvement in the attainment of clean and unqualified audits by municipalities. “The municipalities in rural areas in the North West and Eastern Cape provinces are finding it hard to adhere to the Municipal Finance Management Act No. 56 of 2003.”
Nevertheless, he says, it is promising to see there are only a few municipalities that have failed to submit their financial statements for auditing.
Nombembe cautions that, for government’s clean audits and improved service delivery initiative, Operation Clean Audit 2014, to succeed, South Africa’s mayors must lead the movement towards the clean administration of their municipalities.
The report reveals a marginal improvement in comparison with results of the previous year.
Of the 237 municipalities and 49 municipal entities that were audited, seven municipalities (compared with four in 2008/09) and ten municipal entities (compared with one in 2008/09) received clean audit reports.
The municipalities with a clean administration are Mpumalanga’s Ehlanzeni district municipality and Steve Tshwete and Victor Khanye local municipalities, the City of Cape Town, Gauteng’s Metsweding district municipality, the Northern Cape’s Frances Baard district municipality and Limpopo’s Fetakgomo local municipality.
Among the municipal entities that achieved clean audit reports were the Eastern Cape’s Amathole Economic Development Agency, Gauteng’s Brakpan bus company, the East Rand Water Care Company, housing development agency the Johannesburg Property Company, the Johannesburg Civic Theatre, the Lethabong Housing Institute and the Roodepoort Civic Theatre.
KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng registered the most notable overall improvements in audit outcomes.
Among other financial management issues, Nombembe raised concerns about the increased level of unauthorised and irregular expenditure, which amounted to about R9-billion.
Trends emerging from service delivery information audits were also not optimistic.
On average, 84% of the municipalities and municipal entities did not fully comply with the service delivery information regulatory requirements.
For about 65% of municipalities, the performance information that was reported was not meaningful, or useful, while, for about 48%, the reported performance information was not supported by reliable evidence.
In 24% of the municipalities and munici- pal entities, performance information was not received in time for the audit purposes.
“Leadership needs to improve results in this area by appointing dedicated human resources to manage performance information and formally incorporate service delivery in the performance management framework of municipalities,” Nombembe stated in the report.
Meanwhile, Democratic Alliance Eastern Cape member of the provincial legislature Dacre Haddon tells Engineering News that service delivery in the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality (NMBM) is hampered by its total budget being underfunded by R300-million.
Failures in terms of infrastructure maintenance are apparent and the lack of adequate revenue collection services has resulted in road projects being shelved.
He agrees that the shortage of critical skills, such as engineers, within the metro is problematic.
Further, Haddon says the lack of funding provided by the Department of Trade and Industry for State-owned development agency Coega Development Corporation this year is of significant concern. “This has a negative impact on economic development and job creation in the metro.”
The NMBM currently has a housing backlog of about 92 000 units.
“The mandate of government to produce integrated human settlement has not materialised. There is not one integrated human settlement in the Eastern Cape and the target for building housing units has been reduced to just over 15 000 units.”
“The development of rental and social housing in the metro and province remains a priority that is not getting enough attention. There is a huge gap in the market for this type of accommodation,” Haddon adds.
He believes social housing will do away with unscrupulous contractors to a large extent.
“The building of Reconstruction and Development Programme and other housing seems to be unsustainable and unaffordable. The rectification of houses has been taken over by national government and is costing billions of rands.”
He also suggests that, to deal with these problems, competent and trained staff should fill critical vacancies within the metros.
Further, Haddon believes that a concerted effort to improve revenue collection will bring in the funds needed for proper service delivery. “Most importantly, we need to expand our tax base in the metro and the province by creating more employment opportunities so that more efficient operations can be undertaken by the metro,” he says.
In May, the NMBM opened a dedicated call centre for lodging complaints regarding service delivery in the metro. Dubbed the ‘War Room on Service Delivery’, the aim of the call centre is to improve municipal responsiveness to community issues.
The auditor-general’s report showed that budgets in the Eastern Cape were 40% underspent.
It was also found that consultants had to be used in 89% of municipal projects in the province owing to the lack of skills and the fact that many positions at the municipality are vacant.
Only 32% of municipalities in the prov- ince received qualified or disclaimer of audit opinion audit reports.
Haddon says a long road still lies ahead.
“The 52% marginal improvement in [the number of] unqualified audit reports for municipalities is not good enough. We have to aim high and keep on improving.”