Speeches

Budget speech 2009/2010: Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning

17 June 2009
Honourable Speaker
Honourable Premier of the Western Cape
Provincial Cabinet Colleagues
Members of the Provincial Legislature
Executive Mayors
Partners in Local Government
Invited Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is an honour for me to give a budget speech today as the Minister of Local Government. I have been involved in local government for many years as Mayor and Deputy Mayor. Local Government is very close to my heart.

Local government is at the centre of service delivery. If it were not for local government, you would not have been able to turn on your lights this morning or drink water from your tap. It is municipalities that provide water and sanitation and electricity, that take care of municipal roads, that rescue people during disasters. It is municipalities that work to improve people's lives and to combat poverty.
Mr Speaker,

I believe that if municipalities want to have an impact on people's lives, they must put people first. Whatever they do, whatever they spend money on, they must always ask the question, "Will this improve the lives of our people?"

If we want to put people first, then we must make sure that we spend money on the right things. Service delivery must come first. Municipalities in the Western Cape only spent 78% of their capital budgets last year. This is unacceptable, because it means that millions go unspent each year that should be spent on providing new infrastructure.

At the same time, municipalities are not spending enough on maintaining the infrastructure that they do have. Some of our water and sewerage treatment works are deteriorating because we are not spending enough on technical skills and equipment.

I expect municipalities to spend at least 10 percent of their operations budgets on infrastructure maintenance, phased in over the next four years. If we do not prioritise our infrastructure, we are sitting on a ticking time bomb.

Since coming into office, I have realised that it will be very difficult to address our infrastructure challenges if we do not understand the backlog and have a provincial plan to address it. I have instructed my department to work together with the Department of Water & Environmental Affairs, Provincial Treasury, and district and local municipalities to do a comprehensive audit of our water and sanitation infrastructure and develop a 10 year provincial infrastructure project and financing plan for municipalities. This plan will be completed by March 2010.

If we want to put people first, then we must also make sure that we spend our money wisely. Here is one example. Some municipalities in the Western Cape have excellent billing systems to collect the money that is owed to them. Other municipalities have problems with this. Now one solution might be to appoint a consultant to assist the struggling municipality to improve its billing system. But I believe that a better solution is to ask a municipality with a good system to help a municipality with a weak one. By twinning municipalities, we are using existing resources, saving money, and strengthening relationships between municipalities.

My approach is to assist municipalities on such issues. I plan to visit all 30 municipalities in the coming year. During each visit I will ask the same questions: What are your challenges? How can we help you? What can we learn from each other? Are you putting people first?

I have already visited three municipalities. In Kannaland, we discussed the financial challenges and agreed that the municipality needs to develop and implement a long-term sustainability plan. In Oudtshoorn we talked about the financial challenges and the Province agreed to deploy a financial expert to the municipality. Bitou also has its challenges. If opposition councillors need information they have to use the Access to Information Act. There are a lot of allegations of fraud in the municipality. The municipality must address this.

So I want to ask municipalities, how can we help you and how can we work together? My Department held a strategic planning workshop over a week ago, and six municipal managers attended the workshop. We developed ideas about ways in which we can provide more assistance to municipalities. I will also be discussing our draft strategic plan with the Standing Committee on Governance to get their ideas and buy-in.

We will be taking these ideas forward in the coming year. My department is working together with municipalities to finalise their Municipal Support Plans (MSPs).

An MSP identifies the key capacity gaps in a municipality, says how they can be addressed over the next five years, and identifies the resources that we can use. The resources include the expertise of organisations such as the Development Bank of Southern Africa, Ilima Trust, and the Technical Assistance Unit of National Treasury, who are our valued partners.

Here are some examples of how we are already assisting municipalities. We are helping 19 municipalities to improve their performance management systems. We are assisting municipalities to fully implement the Municipal Property Rates Act. Together with SALGA we will provide leadership training to councillors, and we are also rolling out Code of Conduct training to councillors.

I believe that we must develop effective strategies for building local government capacity in the longer term. We need to focus on growing our own timber, meaning that we must work on a bursary system to attract competent young people to the public sector.

It is only with strong, capacitated municipalities that we can tackle some of the tough economic challenges that we face. We must use local economic development (LED) programmes to help people become prosperous and independent of the state, rather than relying on state grants. Multi-purpose Centres (MPCs) can also play a role in LED. The success of MPCs must be measured by how many people they get into jobs and we can do that with public-private partnerships with local businesses.

I know that some municipalities do not want to be assisted, and sometimes we will have to intervene. I am concerned that there has been a breakdown of discipline in many municipalities. This applies both to councillors and officials. We have our priorities wrong. We are spending money on overseas trips, catering and mayoral staff instead of using the money to improve the lives of our people. Some politicians are using their official vehicles to attend political meetings, and this is not right. We are focusing on frills and neglecting the basics. We are not putting people first.

I want to bring discipline back into municipalities. I have asked my Department to compile a list of councillors and officials who owe money to municipalities for rates or service charges. If these debts are not paid within two months, I will phone the Mayor and ask why it has not been done. I have already raised this issue with the Mayors of Kannaland, Oudtshoorn and Bitou when I visited them. It is not acceptable to take taxes from the people and not pay it ourselves.

I also want to make sure that fraud and corruption are eliminated and that councillors and their family members do not unlawfully benefit from municipal contracts. Our tender processes must be open and above-board. We want to give work to people in our communities, but it must be done openly, fairly, and legally. I have asked my Department to investigate how we can make municipal tender processes more transparent.

One of the ways to stop fraud is to focus on fraud prevention. My Department has developed Anti-Fraud Guidelines for Local Government in respect of Human Resources and Finance, which will be a resource for municipalities. We are also supporting ten municipalities with the compilation of anti-corruption strategies and implementation plans, eight with ethics management training, and ten with good governance training.

In addition to assisting municipalities, there are some major concerns that I want to address. The first concern is that municipalities have many laws and regulations. Municipalities often get so tied up with trying to comply that they don't focus on the important things. The Premier already announced the establishment of a Legal Resource Unit in the Province. This Unit will find ways to reduce the reporting and compliance burden of municipalities so that they can focus more on service delivery.

My second concern is that municipalities are involved in functions that are not local government functions. These functions are unfunded mandates and use up valuable efforts and funding. For example, municipalities spend more than R250 million a year on libraries, but libraries are a function assigned to provinces in the Constitution. I have asked my Department to develop an action plan so that we can address each one of these unfunded mandates.

This is not the only policy issue that I will review. I think that we must have a debate about the role of districts. There is a lot of funding going to the districts, but we have to ask whether there is one tier too many in our governmental system. I also want to ask whether the equitable share is really equitable. Local government is expected to deliver so much with so little, and I am concerned that the increase in the number of poor people in Western Cape municipalities is not being taken into account. Let us play open cards and discuss these issues.

My third concern is the effectiveness of the Community Development Worker (CDW) Programme. This is an example of a great idea that has been ruined by politics. CDWs must focus on doing the right things. In the coming year, CDWs in the Province will be conducting more than 200 workshops in communities. These are workshops where people learn about the things that touch their lives, such as how to prevent woman and child abuse, how to apply for social grants, and how to start their own businesses. CDWs will also facilitate community projects such as food gardens.

These are good initiatives, but we must ensure that CDWs are held accountable for their work. I will talk about these issues with municipalities and together we will come up with a plan to make this a great programme.

My fourth concern is around Integrated Development Plans (IDPs). Every municipality's IDP is assessed by my Department each year, and I am pleased that 28 out of our 30 municipalities have IDPs that are considered to be credible. This year I plan to make this 30 out of 30.

But Mr Speaker, many of these are only IDPs on paper. I do not see very much proof that they are being implemented in practice.

I think that there are two reasons why we do not see IDPs implemented on the ground. Firstly, public participation is not taken seriously by many municipalities. If we want to put people first, then we must listen to them and make sure that their needs are the basis for our priorities and plans. We must also ask them and civil society organisations how they can help make the IDP a reality. Secondly, I don't see a strong relationship between IDPs and municipal budgets. If there is no link between the two, then what is the point of an IDP? It should not be a wish list but an action plan.

I will do two things to change this. I will ask my Department to check every IDP and make sure that it is an action plan and not a wish list. I will also help municipalities to improve their integrated planning skills through our IDP learnership programme. This programme is offered to all municipalities and it includes six modules.

Another concern I have is about the political instability in our municipalities in the Western Cape. Twenty out of our thirty municipalities are governed by coalitions.

Almost every week we hear about another Council that has changed power, and the new coalition then insists on getting rid of senior managers and appointing new ones.

Unstable coalitions carry a high financial cost, since large payouts of municipal managers are the norm. They have also led to uncertainty and demoralisation among staff, and not surprisingly service delivery has not improved in many municipalities.

In the coming year I am going to find solutions to these problems. I have instructed my Department to investigate the various solutions, which may involve the introduction of the Executive Committee system in local and district municipalities governed by coalitions.

I am also concerned about our lack of preparedness for disasters. Municipalities are on the front line when it comes to disasters. We have experienced many disasters in the Western Cape during the last 12 months: the xenophobic violence that broke out in May 2008, the floods in Cape Town and the West Coast in July 2008, the floods in the Cape Winelands and Overberg Districts in November 2008, and the devastating fires of the summer of 2009.

We have to think differently about disasters. Disasters are not just the business of disaster management centres.They are the business of provincial departments and municipalities as a whole. The long-term solution to disasters is to be proactive and prevent disasters or reduce their impact. For example, municipalities know that one of the most effective ways to prevent or reduce flooding risk is to ensure that stormwater drains are kept clear.

It is the job of provincial departments and municipalities to identify disaster risks in this way and then take measures to reduce these risks. The Provincial Disaster Management Centre will focus its efforts on assisting municipalities and provincial departments to do exactly this in the coming year.

I will meet with SALGA in the near future. We need to determine what the role and function of SALGA is. Personally I think SALGA is trying to become another government sphere and it does not focus on important things. In the last 8 years they could not solve TASK job classification system or the unfunded mandates question. The councillors' pension fund is in chaos. SALGA overspends on offices, flying business class, staying in five star hotels while doubling the levy that municipalities must pay. It seems that everyone but SALGA realises that the country is in a recession. We need to see how SALGA can play a role that supports municipalities to perform better and put people first.

I believe that co-operative governance must be the foundation of all of our work. Co-operative governance can only work if we rise above party-political differences and work together. We must talk openly to each other in meetings such as the Provincial Advisory Forum. These meetings must not be talk shops but places where we learn from each other. They should be places where we strengthen our relationship with national and provincial departments. I am pleased that the national Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Minister Sicelo Shiceka, has agreed to come to a forthcoming Provincial Advisory Forum.

The District Co-ordinating Forums (DCFs) are also important spaces where local and district municipalities can align their work and can also co-ordinate their work with that of provincial departments. I will be visiting every DCF in the coming months to ensure that this is happening.

Mr Speaker, I have talked about the many challenges we face. There are also many things to be proud of. Overstrand, Swartland, and Laingsburg have won national Vuna Performance Excellence awards during the last three years. Our own Premier was voted as the best Mayor in the world last year. Let us build on this success.

In summary, I will be delivering the following in the coming year:

  • All municipalities will comply with the Municipal Property Rates Act
  • 10 municipalities would have been supported with anti-corruption preventative measures
  • 19 municipalities will have improved performance management systems
  • The IDP learnership for municipalities will be completed
  • The Community Development Worker Programme will be effective and accountable
  • Councillors will have completed training in executive leadership and in the Code of Conduct for Councillors
  • Municipal spending of capital budgets will be significantly improved
I have told you what you can expect of me. I will visit municipalities, I will listen to their issues, and I will use all the resources available to me to help them. But this is what I expect in return. I expect municipal councillors and officials to be disciplined. I expect municipalities to spend money on the right things. If together we do these things, then we will have excellent municipalities that truly serve the people.
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