Zweli Mkhize. Picture: ELMOND JIYANE.
Zweli Mkhize. Picture: ELMOND JIYANE.

A shortage of skills in critical sectors such as water engineering continues to hamper the functioning of municipalities, says Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize.

Only 55 municipalities out of 257 had engineers leading their technical divisions, he said.

Based on an assessment by his department, just 7% of municipalities were classified as functioning well, Mkhize said.

Speaking at a ceremony on Monday to send off newly appointed engineers and town planners to distressed municipalities, Mkhize said his department and the Treasury had identified 87 distressed and dysfunctional municipalities for intervention. The department had so far appointed 81 new engineers and town planners.

Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

"Our interventions are in line with Section 154 of the constitution, which provides that national and provincial government must support and strengthen the capacity of municipalities to manage their own affairs, exercise their powers and perform their functions," said Mkhize.

Intervention programmes were clustered into three main areas — governance and administration, financial management and service delivery — he said.

In the past five years, a total of R3.4bn in municipal infrastructure grant transfers had been reallocated from underspending cities and towns to better-spending municipalities.

"This cannot continue. Alternatives must be found to support service delivery to poorer communities," said Mkhize.

"This is why we have decided to institute this programme [intervention]. We want to solve once and for all the problem of money being sent back due to failure to spend it by municipalities," he said.

Mkhize said he had made a commitment that his department would, through its implementing agent, the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent, urgently support 55 struggling municipalities to spend their infrastructure allocations.

"We have established the district technical support teams and have appointed engineers and town planners who have been deployed to municipalities in the nine provinces."

In a bid to improve monitoring, his department was exploring the acquisition of an early-warning system dashboard.

"This ICT [information and communications] capability will improve our effectiveness in supporting early interventions and will enable us to support our district support teams better."

phakathib@businesslive.co.za