Speeches

NCOP Speech by Minister Bredell

8 June 2011

Chairperson,
Members of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP),
Invited Guests and Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome and thank you for affording me the opportunity to address you in my capacity as Minister of Local Government of the Western Cape Provincial Government. We have just been through a very exciting municipal election and, as I noted during my budget vote earlier this year, we have now effectively closed a five-year chapter of local government and are now opening a new one. In doing this, it is important to remember what worked in the past and what did not work has to now be rectified. By now it is a known fact that we in the Western Cape achieved excellent ratings under the Universal Household Access to Basic Services (uHABS) Index, where it was confirmed that 88% of people in the Western Cape do have access to basic services, which is the highest in the country.

100% of poor residents do have access to free basic services. Twenty-two out of 30 municipalities received unqualified audits. But we cannot rest on our laurels, the coming five years are going to be even more challenging for all of our councillors and councils. Ideally, we would want to start off with the ideal that we are going to have local government in our province that is going to work effectively and, more importantly, we want local government that is going to be free of all types of corruption and maladministration at all levels.

Our three tiers of government are equally important to our communities, but at the end of the day, I believe that the bedrock of our democracy is local government which is why it is vital that we have local government that works for all our communities across our province. The only way we are going to achieve the desired growth and renewed opportunities we are all seeking is if we stand together and ensure that we are in harmony with each other. Sustainable economic growth is at the top of our agenda but it's a challenge we share. Chairperson, we are today all exposed to a number of buzz words that always sound impressive when they are worked into speeches and statements but we have to get to the point where these buzz words become the reality we are striving for.

I said on a number of occasions during the build up to the municipal elections that there is only one thing that is worse than losing an election and that is to win it and do nothing. This cannot happen and we have to be driven by the buzz words "good governance" and this must become second nature to us at all levels. There is no doubt that communities across our country are fed up with local government that has been inefficient and the time has come for councillors to strive towards good governance and, together with local government officials, understand and respect the law, their roles and their responsibilities.

The communities must also feel free to engage with their elected representatives on the issues they believe are at the heart of their problems and in this regard I again want to stress the importance of the ward committee system. We must encourage people to actively engage with their representatives and keep their councillors on their toes. As stated earlier, we have welcomed a number of new councillors into local government throughout the Western Cape Province and I am pleased to confirm that my Department of Local Government is conducting an all-encompassing training and support programme in this regard across the province. In the build up to the election, we were active in a number of areas where invaluable assistance was provided.

The election helpdesk that we set up prior to the election to assist municipalities with queries relating to matters requiring attention prior to the election was so successful that we have maintained it as a post-election support mechanism in order to ensure that municipalities are compliant with prescribed legislation regulating their functions and powers of councils. The helpdesk also provided support to senior managers deployed by the Department of Local Government as observers at the first council meetings of municipalities and had a dedicated telephone line essentially to receive enquiries from municipal officials requesting assistance and guidance on the composition, appointment and roles and responsibilities of councillors.

In fact, I am pleased to confirm that subsequent to the elections, my department will retain the helpdesk until 30 September 2011, to provide ongoing support to municipalities until they are fully functional and have complied with all related legislative requirements and feel comfortable in their roles. The department in preparation and for purposes of planning also distributed a circular informing municipal managers of the prescribed timeframe within which the first meeting of council should be held after the elections. This information was necessary for the department to determine whether I as the responsible MEC for local government had to designate a person to call the first meeting of council. Probably the most important initiative was to have in place senior officials at councils to provide assistance based on the information received from municipalities as to the date of their first meeting of council. In this regard, the department compiled a deployment schedule of senior managers to attend the first meeting of council as observers and support to municipal managers across the province.

In a nutshell, the assistance and support from my department has been widely welcomed by incoming councillors and officials and I am proud of my department's ongoing efforts in ensuring a seamless transition. As far as post-election activities are concerned, I can confirm that most new councillors that took up office will receive council induction training and subsequent detailed training has also been scheduled. The exciting news is that my department, in partnership with SALGA, the Provincial Treasury and the DBSA, is rolling out a phased training program for councillors and, in this regard, the political parties will also provide training to councillors.

This strategy to roll out training to councillors will consist of three phases. The first phase of the training will consist of two parts which SALGA will coordinate. The National Induction Programme for Councillors will be rolled out in all districts during the first two weeks of July 2011. The Induction Programme will cover (a) the policy and legal framework guiding local government (b) the role of co-operative governance and municipalities' important role in this respect (c) roles and functions of councillors and (d) key municipal processes. SALGA will also, through the University of the Western Cape, provide the Executive Leadership course for councillors during the latter part of the year. The Department of Local Government has made a contribution over two years in support of this programme. The second phase that will be facilitated by the Department of Local Government, of which the content has been developed by the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, and funded by the Hans Seidel Foundation.

SALGA remains a key partner in supporting my department with the facilitation of this training and it is scheduled to be rolled out from September to November 2011. Seven themes have been identified and developed. These include (a) Rules of Order (b) Leadership and Conflict Resolutions (c) Oversight and S53 relations (d) Delegations (e) Supply Chain Management (f) Speaker- and Mayor-Specific Training and (g) Administrative and Legal Accountability. The third phase of the training will be functional specific training aimed at portfolio members within councils. Amongst others, this training will include Technical, Ward Committee and Municipal Communication training provided by the department.

The Provincial Treasury will provide financial management training to councillors while DBSA will provide local economic development training. This specific training is scheduled to commence during January 2012. The Department of Local Government has established a Training Working Group together with the Provincial Treasury and SALGA. One of their main tasks is to coordinate and synchronise the various training initiatives to avoid any duplication.

In terms of the MFMA Circular No. 54, municipalities were requested to consider the draft 2011/2012 budgets and to adopt the final 2011/2012 budgets before the local government elections of 18 May 2011. Although many municipalities had considered the draft 2011/2012 budgets, some municipalities kept the approval of the final 2011/2012 budgets in abeyance till after the local government elections. Together with the final budgets, municipalities need to consider and approve the Integrated Development Plan, Service Delivery and Budget Implementation Plan and the budget-related policies, which include a tariff policy, a rates policy and a credit and debt collection policy. The latest date of approving the annual budget and related policies is 30 June 2011. Department of Local Government intends to provide wide-ranging intergovernmental support to municipalities.

Finally, and most importantly, in terms of legislation, municipal employment contracts are for a fixed term of five years but not longer than one year after a new council has been elected. Given the fact that the contracts of most municipal managers will come to an end within a year after the recent elections, the Department of Local Government is updating its information relating to start and end dates of municipal managers' contracts mindful of any extensions. This is to advise councils on the renewal of employment contracts where appropriate or the recruitment of a new municipal manager.

In this regard, the Department of Local Government is in the process of securing the assistance of a service provider who can assist councils with all aspects of the recruitment process relating to the appointment of a municipal manager. In 2011, my department will also provide intensive support to six municipalities to improve their communication strategies as well as implement neighbourhood development plans in communities by dedicated municipal officials. Twenty-four Mobile Thusongs will be held in local municipalities across the province, in order to enable community members who live in far-flung areas to access government services.

The recent focus on the Local Government Municipal Systems Amendment Bill must be maintained at all costs. The national government had confirmed that this was due on the statute books before the recently held municipal elections, but as we all know, this has not taken place and the question that needs to be answered is, where is the delay? This Local Government Municipal Systems Amendment Bill will assist us in providing more stable municipal management across the board and is in line with the general thrust to tighten up municipal staff matters. It also proposes the regulation of the appointment of municipal managers.

It will also prevent municipal managers and managers directly accountable to municipal managers from holding political office in a political party, whether in a permanent, temporary or acting role. In short, it is going to put an end to the deployment of unqualified people which we should all welcome here today. Many local authorities have suffered in this way, but the biggest losers are our communities who are faced with no service delivery whatsoever. I want to make an urgent appeal to the acting Minister of Co-operative Government and Traditional Affairs today to apply himself and drive this amendment to its logical conclusion.

The Department of Local Government is also in a process of assessing the outcome of the local government elections and the implications thereof on its own work. As stated, I want to see our new councillors on a strong footing as soon as possible. I know that in spite of all this support, things may go wrong but with the various support mechanisms my department has put at the disposal of local government, I have no doubt that we can aim to achieve these noble goals and objectives.