South African Municipalities in Crisis

The South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) has taken serious note of the damning report by the Auditor General Terence Nombembe, revealing that of the 278 municipalities audited, only 17 received clean audits in the 2011-2012 financial year.

Nombembe went on further to say that progress towards municipalities and municipal entities achieving clean audits has been slow and tough action needs to be taken against Municipal officials not doing their jobs. The overall picture remains stagnant.

From our own experience of working in every municipality we can confirm that the situation in the Local Government sector is as bad if not worse than the AG has noted. In almost every Municipality corruption is rife. We receive reports on a daily basis from all nine provinces in the country detailing corrupt practices, including maladministration and nepotism. The Local Government sector is without doubt amongst the most corrupt spheres of Government with the least accountability, despite legislation that is supposed to protect government resources.

As long as a culture exists, where offenders appear to suffer no consequences for their illegal actions it will continue. We shall continue to receive depressing reports for years to come unless decisive action is taken at all levels to seriously tackle corruption. In the meantime, our poor communities continue to struggle to survive. Service delivery protests are increasing. Many communities are forced to take to the streets to ensure that even the most basic of services are provided.

Corruption is not just an illegal activity; it is a political act that deprives our people of their basic human and material rights. Those who engage in corruption are maintaining the impoverishment of our people. Thats why corruption has to be fought not just through the courts, and with legal means, important though they are. What we need is political leadership on the question of corruption. We need Government to lead by example, to show that corruption will not be tolerated at any level or by anyone. We must unambiguously state that those engaged in corruption are enemies of our people, and enemies of progress, and should be removed from public office.

We are also very disappointed with the response of SALGA the local government employers body who have side stepped any responsibility for this parlous state of affairs. Instead they have simply lamented the absence of skilled personnel to undertake accounting duties etc. Municipal Managers, who are paid amongst the highest of all public servants, have enthusiastically embraced out-sourcing, contact working, labour brokers and other forms of privatisation. By continuing to undermine public service in this way they are aiding and abetting tenderpreuners who usurp public funds meant for service delivery.

Contrary to the lamenting of SALGA, it is increasingly possible to believe that skilled personnel are being deliberately kept out of local government positions for fear of them exposing the corruption that is taking place with the blessing of senior management. Perhaps SALGA could start to fill and stop manipulating the many vacancies that exist in the Local Government Sector, rather than bemoaning the fact that they cannot recruit suitable personnel.

It is time to turn words into action and do everything possible to ensure that every cent of public money is properly spent for the purposes it was budgeted for.

We will continue our fight in the Local Government sector to root out the cancer of corruption, fruitless, irregular and wasteful expenditure. In doing this we call on the relevant authorities to protect whistle blowers and act against the perpetrators without fear or favour.