According to the civil rights organisation AfriForum, the 2019/2020 report on municipalities by the Auditor-General (AG) Tsakani Maluleke paints a predictably gloomy picture and one that can be improved only by more community action.
The AG’s report states that there is serious doubt about the ability of 27% of municipalities to carry on as going concerns, and she once again singles out poor supervision and accountability as the causes of this situation. Furthermore, about one third of municipalities ended the financial year with a negative balance and COVID-19 was used as a pretext for irregular expenditure and corruption. Only 27 municipalities received clean audits.
She therefore emphasises that municipalities are facing two major challenges, namely poor finances and management.
According to Morné Mostert, Manager of Local Government Affairs at AfriForum, the latest findings are only too well known already. “Every year the AG warns about the same factors causing this decay and yet nothing is done to put things right, notwithstanding the use of consultants to do people’s work for which they are getting paid anyway. By now, we know that accountability in most municipalities does not exist, despite periodic promises that the situation will be turned around.”
Mostert says communities should simply accept that the authorities have neither the means nor the will to improve service delivery and stop decay. “The only solution is for communities to organise themselves and do something – with or without the assistance of municipal governments. People who even use a pandemic for irregular behaviour simply cannot be trusted.”
Dr Eugene Brink, Manager of AfriForum’s Centre for Local Government, says one of the most depressing deductions made from these findings is that the ANC this year once again is going to be rewarded at the polls, all this mismanagement notwithstanding. “The governing party once again is going to achieve an easy victory in most rural municipalities and probably in most of the metros as well. In addition, these municipal findings came after another damning report by the AG in March on the precarious financial position of provincial departments. The consequences of cadre deployment now are in full swing and communities are bearing the brunt.
“People who care about their towns and residential areas have no other option but to make a difference themselves. Only two recent examples where AfriForum has been playing a key role is how the community and business sector in Coligny started a sustainable project to keep the town clean, and water supply in Standerton. We could keep complaining that we are paying rates and therefore that we are owed services, but reality is that this is not happening. Communities simply will have to act strongly in solving problems themselves, because the management and councils of most municipalities are incompetent and corrupt,” Brink says.