Municipal Accounts Committee Workshop
Councillors and Officials
Since National Treasury issued guidelines for the establishment of Municipal Public Accounts Committees (MPACS) in 2011 many Western Cape Municipalities questioned the relevance and need for an additional committee.
Municipalities argued that it is a duplication of what they are already doing. You argued that it is an additional cost that is unaffordable and that there are capacity constraints in smaller councils.
All these arguments are not irrelevant or without basis but it do not justify municipalities to not establish MPACS.
My reason for taking this position is because MPACS is not about achieving clean audits. MPACS is about improving oversight over executive action and administrative implementation.
The one argument coming from local government that I do not agree with is that MPACS is duplication. This argument is too simplistic if we are all committed to improving oversight. Oversight is not about the opposition party holding the ruling party to account. This is infinitely easier than members of a municipal council exercising oversight over a mayor from their own party.
An ANC councillor holding an ANC mayor to account and a DA councillor holding a DA mayor to account within the processes of council is the degree and nature of oversight we need to strive for.
In National and Provincial parliaments the structure presents far less challenges for oversight than in municipal councils but even at these levels oversight can be improved. No person can argue that oversight does not need to be improved at local government. MPACS should be used as an opportunity to improve oversight.
Section 151(2) of our Constitution states that the executive and legislative authority of a municipality is vested in its municipal council.
Council in its delegations gives executive power to the mayor and his committee. Council remains accountable. An abuse of power or failure to perform by the executive and administration, if gone unchecked by the municipal council, is a failure by council.
The mayor and administration might be the responsible persons but because the power is vested in the municipal council, the individual councillors and the collective body remain accountable. Municipal councils cannot give its power away and thereafter turn a blind eye to non-performance or even worse maladministration.
I know that we all will agree that MPAC is not a magical cure for all of the challenges which Municipalities face. It also does not guarantee a clean audit. However, with the appropriate support and a willingness to face these challenges it will be a positive move for municipalities in the direction of accountable local government and assist in the move towards achieving clean audits.
If MPACS are not supported it has the potential to be just another committee that adds no value in municipalities. For an MPAC to be effective it needs strategic partners which can support its oversight functions.
These partners consist of the Auditor – General, Audit Committee, Provincial Departments of Treasury and Local government, Cogta and other relevant components within the municipality.
My Department is available at any time to assist with any request from municipalities and will play an active role in additional training that must be rolled out.
The success of MPACS is dependent on joint effort by all parties. The training that was provided from the 5th to 7 June 2012 and the workshop today shows that this Province is serious about the implementation of MPACS at each and every Municipality in the Western Cape Province.
Two issues need clarification.
The first is the chairpersonship of MPAC.
The guideline suggested that the chairperson should not be from the ruling party. It is not a legal requirement but the Western Cape government supports this suggestion. We do realise that in many councils this may be a stumbling block to the establishment of MPACS. It should not be but we do realise that all councils are different and therefore My Department is willing to meet with you and discuss these issues.
The second issue is the full time position of the MPAC chairperson in councils with more than 40 councillors.
It only affects five councils outside the metro. It is the position of the Western Cape Government that full time councillors will only be designated if councils are able to illustrate that the MPAC is meeting regularly and that the quantity but also quality of work justifies a full time salary.
The guideline suggests that MPAC meet a least 4 times a year. Four meetings a year do not justify a full time salary. In Part-time chairpersons are now able to earn more than other part time councillors.
If municipal processes do not generate a sufficient amount of work for part time chairpersons then you are wasting taxpayer’s money and should consider reducing section 79 committees or providing detail to the terms of reference that will generate sufficient work.
It is my belief that the success of MPAC depends on the ethical qualities of the Councillors sitting on the Committee. Councillors must have the ability to at times take off their political hats and work in the interest of the Municipality.
The other critical success factor is the nature and quality of the combined support provided to MPAC members by all present here today.
This message has reached fifteen (15) of our Municipalities who have currently established MPACS and many others have given positive indication that they are in the process of doing so. If there are stumbling blocks to the establishment feel free to call on my Department. If you have already established your MPAC but are experiencing implementation challenges please call on my Department.
We are committed in assisting you.
I would like to use this opportunity to state clearly and without hesitation that I give my full support for the establishment of MPAC’s at all municipalities within the Western Cape Province. I am therefor encouraging those municipalities which have as yet not decided to proceed with the establishment of MPACS to do so as a matter of urgency.
I Thank You