The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) is concerned by the regression in municipal audit outcomes as presented today by the Auditor General, Kimi Makwetu for the 2016/2017 financial years. In the words of the Auditor General, “there is no positive change” essentially painting a bleak future for the country’s 257 municipalities and their entities.
In sharing the same sentiments as the AG, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Minister, Zweli Mkhize recently announced that only 7% of the country’s municipalities are well-functioning while 31% are dysfunctional and a further 31% are on a brink of being dysfunctional.
In presenting the audit outcome, the AG has highlighted that only 33 municipalities have received qualified audits with no findings down from 48 in 2015/16 financial years. Irregular expenditure has ballooned to R28.3 billion for the year in review while wasteful expenditure has increased to R1.5 billion in 2016/17 financial years.
The AG further noted that his office has witnessed the same accountability and governance challenges in municipalities hence the overall regression in audit outcomes for the years in review. Municipalities leading the pack in incurring irregular expenditure is Nelson Mandela Bay Metro followed by OR Tambo and City of Tshwane.
The AG also noted that debt collection failures are widespread in municipalities coupled with the debt to Eskom and Water Boards. We therefore call on municipalities to strengthen their debt collection mechanisms. We further reiterate our call for National Treasury and COGTA to increase the equitable share advanced to municipalities.
SAMWU is also concerned by threats to auditors by municipal officials as has been reported by the AG. We therefore urge the AG to lay criminal charges against those involved in these threats as they interfered and obstructed his office to fully execute its duties.
SAMWU is further concerned by the lack of political will by municipalities to investigate the findings of the AG on irregular, fruitless, unauthorized and wasteful expenditure as presented by the AG. We therefore welcome proposals by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) to strengthen the powers of the office of the AG to refer some findings to law enforcement authorities and that of issuing a certificate of debt to municipal management to be held personally liable for wasteful and unauthorized expenditure.
SAMWU is of the view that since municipalities are in the forefront of service delivery, they should be prioritized and inculcate a culture of good and clean governance. It is for this reason that we hold the view that municipal management should be held liable for unauthorized and wasteful expenditure.
We are now convinced more than before that the financial situation which municipalities find themselves in are manmade either deliberately or otherwise by municipalities. We therefore call on COGTA to reign in on these municipalities as we see a serious and immediate need for such an intervention in the interest of service delivery to South Africans.
We are also further convinced that municipalities do have the money to meet demands which municipal workers have put forward for salary and wage demands. If municipalities were to be run efficiently and optimally they would be thriving, delivering quality services and better remuneration municipal workers.