Ramaphosa urges collaborative action to solve municipal challenges
The president calls for effective financial management, improved service delivery and a co-ordinated response to ensure local government upholds its duty to serve the people
President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged all spheres of government to work together to ensure municipalities are able to execute their responsibilities.
Ramaphosa said efforts to improve the lives of South Africans will only succeed when the country effectively addresses the challenges in local government.
Citing the release of municipal audit outcomes by the auditor-general for 2021/22, the president said it was worrisome that only 38 out of 257 municipalities, and only two out of the eight metros, achieved clean audits.
“While clean audits are not the only indicator of good service delivery, there is a clear correlation between achieving good audit outcomes and improving services to communities,” he said.
Ramaphosa said local government provided the infrastructure and services that help improve people’s livelihoods.
“This issue of improving the lives of our people was prominent on the agenda of the president’s co-ordinating council [PCC], which met in Cape Town last Friday. The PCC is the president’s platform for consultation with provinces and organised local government to co-ordinate and strengthen the implementation of government programmes,” he said.
In his weekly newsletter, Ramaphosa said the council makes an important contribution to the district development model, which approaches local development in an integrated way that focuses the efforts of local, provincial and national government at the district level.
“The council was presented with proposals on local government reform and improving intergovernmental co-ordination in the critical areas of electricity distribution, water and sanitation services, waste management and roads,” he said.
The president said the council focused on the challenge of municipal underspending, saying while many municipalities are in financial difficulty, they often do not spend the grants they are allocated by national government.
[T]here is a clear correlation between achieving good audit outcomes and improving services to communities.President Cyril Ramaphosa
“In the past year, [about] 88 municipalities failed to spend at least 10% of their municipal infrastructure grant, which is supposed to be used for eradicating infrastructure backlogs. Another challenge is money that is not allocated for a specific purpose is often misspent,” he said.
Ramaphosa admitted some municipalities had said they do not have sufficient funds to implement programmes and projects.
“This is often the case, because they are not able to collect revenue for key services such as water and electricity. It is imperative municipalities must have credible, sustainable and well-managed revenue collection programmes that apply fair and equitable standards to all customers. Citizens should play their part by paying for services,” said Ramaphosa.
The president urged all businesses and government departments to pay outstanding debt to municipalities, saying the PCC recommended the National Treasury and the department of co-operative governance develop measures to further support and strengthen municipal revenue collection systems with urgency.
“As the auditor-general’s report noted, municipalities are often to blame for their financial woes because of poor debt collection practices. More broadly, the [PCC] deliberated on the urgent task to review the funding model for municipalities to ensure they have the resources they need to do their work,” he said.
In the face of the great needs of the country’s citizens, the dire material conditions in which millions of people live and ongoing service delivery failures, the findings of the auditor-general are serious and need a co-ordinated response, said Ramaphosa.
“The people of [SA] expect and are entitled to local governments that are there to serve them and to uphold their right to dignity. All spheres of government are committed to play their part to make this a reality.”
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