The Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (Imatu) on Thursday said it is concerned by reports that municipalities are failing to spend allocated infrastructure grants.
This comes after Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni, this week confirmed that 44 municipalities had their municipal infrastructure grants reallocated to other municipalities.
Imatu said the minister confirmed that Nelson Mandela Metro forfeited R29.4-million from the grant on public networks while Ekurhuleni lost R90-million, City of Johannesburg R46-million and eThekwini R58-million. Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal forfeited R56-million and Madibeng in North West lost R60-million.
"Over and above budgeted projects and maintenance, municipalities are able to apply for conditional grants to develop, maintain and refurbish infrastructure.
"These municipal infrastructure grants are meant to be tied to a specific project or purpose. However, we routinely see this money used for other expenses or in some cases not spent at all.
"South African municipalities are collectively owed R139-billion from residents alone. It seems inconceivable that income-strapped municipalities are not adequately utilising their grant allocations," Imatu deputy president Keith Swanepoel said.
The trade union said that many South African municipalities are reliant on these grants to upgrade and maintain water and sanitation services, roads, public buildings and a number of other services.
"The concerns of aging infrastructure and inadequate maintenance were highlighted and discussed at Imatu’s Mid-Term Conference in October 2018. We have developed reporting mechanisms to assist our members to record breakdowns in service delivery.
"If members are unable to perform aspects of their work due to resource shortages, incorrect equipment or unsafe working conditions we request that they log these incidents with their regional office.
"If we cannot resolve the problem at a municipal level, the union will escalate the concern to the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.
"Many of the problems reported stem from poor planning, unmaintained infrastructure and underfunded budgets," Swanepoel said.
Imatu said it believed that political leaders and municipal officials alike should be able to demonstrate how their decisions align with constitutional mandates and their municipality's integrated development plan.
"Leaders must be answerable to the communities they serve, especially when these communities are not receiving basic services with little hope for future development.
"Imatu is committed to social transformation through a sustainable local government, this commitment must, however, be matched with equal assurances that the leaders of our country, provinces and municipalities will act in the public interest, take accountability for their actions and respect the rule of law," said Swanepoel.