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Gordhan tells political parties to remove underperforming councillors

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The government will ask political parties to axe underperforming councillors in an effort to punish those at the helm of municipalities that constantly perform poorly on their audited finances, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Pravin Gordhan has said.

Gordhan mentioned an “insatiable greed” for taxpayers’ money, poor financial record keeping, a lack of consequences for wrongdoers and unresponsive politicians as some of the reasons that municipalities around the country were failing to perform basic service delivery duties.

Gordhan was reacting to the announcement of the 2013-2014 municipal audit outcomes in Parliament today. It showed that only 40 of the country’s 278 municipalities, and 18 out of 57 municipal entities, achieved clean audits.

Gordhan expressed Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu’s concerns that the continued “overreliance” on consultants by municipalities – who spent R3.1bn of their R315bn budget in 2013-2014 on consultants – had not yielded any positive outcomes.

The audit report showed that out of 335 audited municipalities, including 57 entities, 264 incurred R11.4bn in irregular expenditure and 250 audited municipalities and entities accounted for R687m in fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

Another 190 of the auditees, including municipalitites and their entities, incurred R11.4bn in “unauthorised expenditure”.

Other findings included:

– Weaknesses at 184 of the 293 auditees that used consultants;

– 18 municipal entities received clean audits in 2013-2014 compared with nine in 2012-2013; and

– Of the 58 auditees that received clean audits, 20 are in KwaZulu-Natal, 13 in Gauteng and 18 in the Western Cape.

Gordhan said in cases where a municipality had been identified as constantly underperforming with no improvements, the government would approach the political parties who deploy councillors to municipalities and ask the party to replace that individual.

“The main reason for disclaimed opinions was inadequate or missing supporting documentation. This is caused by failure to strengthen internal controls and the lack of skilled officials.

“Over-reliance on consultants also remains a concern. This is unacceptable. We are asking the MECs to oversee that councils institute disciplinary action against negligent and underperforming officials.

“If need be we will refer some municipalities to the relevant political parties to consider a change in the leadership of these municipalities if there is no immediate improvement,” said Gordhan.

He welcomed the announcement by the ANC this week that the party in Limpopo had dismissed Mogalakwena Local Municipality mayor Thlalefi Mashamaite and Blouberg Local Municipality mayor Serite Skholane.

Municipalities in North West, Limpopo and the Free State were among the worst performers because they did not have a single municipality or entity that received a clean audit.

In the report, Makwetu also blamed a lack of consequences and holding officials and councillors accountable as one of the main reasons municipalities performed poorly when their financial management was audited.

“We identified inadequate consequences for poor performance and transgressions to be a root cause of poor audit outcomes at 50% of the auditees, which is a significant improvement from the previous years.

“The low level of action in response to the high levels of noncompliance, poor audit outcomes, supply chain management transgressions and unauthorised, irregular as well as fruitless and wasteful expenditure also demonstrates a lack of consequences for transgressions.”

The report also urged that politicians and municipal officials who continued to ignore their duties should be “decisively dealt with”.

“Leaders and officials who deliberately or negligently ignore their duties and contravene legislation should be decisively dealt with through performance management and by enforcing the legislated consequences for transgressions. If they are not held accountable for their action the perception is created that such behaviour and its results are acceptable and tolerated,” warned the report.

The South African Local Government Association, which comprised municipal councillors and mayors, also welcomed plans to remove underperforming councillors and officials.

The association’s chairperson, Thabo Manyoni, said any moves aimed at ensuring that the country had “functional” municipalities were welcomed, including “implementing adequate consequences and accountability”. News24

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