Ladies and gentlemen of the media
Thank you for availing yourselves for today’s media briefing.
PURPOSE OF THE BRIEFING
We are convening this engagement today to update you on the state of municipalities under administration in our province. We are doing so because we believe it is in the public interest to inform the public of the support we are providing to municipalities in various stages of distress. It is also important to outline the successes we have achieved in the context of these support measures as well as the challenges we have encountered during this exercise.
We appreciate the role you play as members of the media in keeping the residents of KZN informed about the programmes we are managing as government. We also appreciate that you hold us accountable as members of the fourth estate.
CALL TO ABIDE BY COVID-19 REGULATIONS
We are meeting with you as the country continues to manage the Covid-19 pandemic – the biggest health crisis we have faced in our lifetime. The oversight role we conduct as a department over the sphere of local government and the institution of traditional leadership gives us a unique insight into the impact Covid-19 continues to have on our communities. From that perspective, we add our voice to the calls addressed to all our communities to abide by the regulations as set out by the national government in terms of the Adjusted Level 2 Lockdown.
Municipalities under administration
There are currently 10 municipalities under administration – or under intervention in terms of Section 139 of the country’s Constitution. In practice, this means that we, as representatives of the Provincial Government, have temporarily taken over some executive functions in these municipalities to assist them, through our appointed administrators, to draft and implement wide-ranging turn-around plans to allow these municipalities return to stability so they can resume these executive functions as soon as possible.
MPOFANA LOCAL MUNICIPALITY
Among the successes of this intervention is fact that the previously vacant critical positions of the Municipal Manager, Chief Financial Officer and Director: Technical Services have now been filled. I cannot overstate the importance of filling of critical vacancies such as the ones at Mpofana. The fact that this municipality now has all hands on deck is the best prerequisite for its return to stability. The Council has also approved a revised municipal organogram on 20 August 2020. Similarly, the 2020/2021 Municipal Infrastructure Grant has been spent and INEP is at 100%.
MSUNDUZI LOCAL MUNICIPALITY
Among the successes of our intervention at Msunduzi is the fact that all of its oversight structures, including the Council itself and its Committees are functional and they are optimally executing their allocated responsibilities. This is no small achievement considering where we started with Msunduzi and the credit for it must go to our administrator in this municipality. The municipality’s Eskom debt, which was a significant challenge in the past, has now also been fully settled.
We are also aware that the Municipality has enter into an agreement with Eskom in relations to the maintenance of its electricity grid. We view this development as an important which will hopefully solve the electricity challenges faced by this municipality.
UTHUKELA DISTRICT MUNICIPALITY
Among the successes of our intervention at uThukela is the fact that the previously vacant critical Senior Management positions are now filled. The municipality has also implemented consequence management against its errant senior managers, with its CFO and Director: Water Services, for example, currently undergoing disciplinary processes. The municipality has similarly identified its main costs-drivers which include overtime and stand-by, fleet and fuel costs, equipment hire as well as pump repairs and it has implemented cost-containment measures to curb this challenge.
INKOSI LANGALIBALELE LOCAL MUNICIPALITY
Among the successes of our intervention here is that fact that most historical creditors dating as far back as 2016 have now been paid up. Arrangements were also made with Eskom for a three-year payment plan. The municipality has fully honoured this commitment as the whole amount of R138-million has now been settled. Four out of the six senior management posts that were originally vacant are now also filled.
UMZINYATHI DISTRICT MUNICIPALITY
Among the successes of our intervention in this district is the fact that its Council, Exco and all Portfolio Committees now sit regularly and process matters that they should be processing. Our Section 106 investigation is also currently being implemented. Matters with criminal elements have been referred to SAPS for processing. The Council has similarly written off R276 303 312 of its irregular expenditure as per the unaudited Annual Financial Statements submitted to the Auditor-General. The municipality’s grants, including EPWP and MIG, have been spent at 100%.
ABAQULUSI LOCAL MUNICIPALITY
Among the successes of our intervention here is the fact that the finance official who misappropriated funds from the municipal accounts has been disciplined and dismissed. The matter was also reported to the police. R3.5-million out of R3.9- million has been recovered. The former official is now attending a criminal case. The municipality is currently approaching courts to secure the balance of the R400 000. Similarly, the MISA projects that are being implemented at eMondlo have been unblocked and are progressing well. The municipality’s old Eskom debt of R68- million was settled in December 2020 and its current Eskom account is up-to-date. Its creditors have been reduced to R8.2-million from R100-million.
EMADLANGENI LOCAL MUNICIPALITY
Among the successes of our intervention here is the fact that this municipality has approved a funded budget. This municipality has also spent all of its MIG funds as a result of this and it has since received additional funding of R5-million.
MTUBATUBA LOCAL MUNICIPALITY
Among the successes of our intervention at this municipality is the fact that it has concluded implementing consequence management measures arising from several internal investigations and 15 employees, including middle and junior managers, have been dismissed pursuant to disciplinary processes. Unfortunately, one employee passed on before the finalisation of the disciplinary process. In addition, most grants at this municipality are being spent optimally.
UMKHANYAKUDE DISTRICT MUNICIPALITY
I regret to say that not much tangible progress has been recorded at uMkhanyakude district despite our best efforts during our intervention here. There is persistent political instability which is frequently collapsing Council meetings. The municipality is also and as a result of this unlikely to approve its budget before end of June 2021. Needless to say, the current institutional instability at uMkhanyakude is having a negative impact on service delivery, especially the municipality’s water provision. Water provision remains intermittent and unreliable, particularly at Mbazwana and Ingwavuma.
NQUTHU LOCAL MUNICIPALITY
The same, unfortunately, goes for Nquthu where almost no progress has been made despite our intensive support. The Executive Council recently reconsidered a report outlining challenges facing Nquthu and resolved to intervene in terms of Section 139(1)(b) on 26 May 2021. The reconsideration of the intervention was due to the fact that the Minister declined to approve earlier intervention.
Our concerns with Nquthu include its failure to investigate unauthorised, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure, with the municipality’s Municipal Public Accounts Committee being dysfunctional. Nquthu has also forged ahead with irregular appointments of senior managers despite resistance from Cogta and even from the judicial branch. It is among the 12 municipalities which have been flagged as distressed, despite our interventions that are being implemented in line with our Municipal Support Plans.
MUNICIPALITIES THAT HAVE HAD THEIR INTERVENTION TERMINATED
One of the municipalities that had their intervention terminated is the Richmond Municipality, in which we assessed the progress that it made and were satisfied with the systems and measures that were put into place. This led to the Provincial Executive resolving to terminate the intervention in the municipality and this was done at the end of March this year.
GENERAL CHALLENGES IN MUNICIPALITIES UNDER ADMINISTRATION
Among the remaining challenges in municipalities under interventions are issues such as political instability, unfunded budgets, irregular expenditure or vandalism causing damage to public infrastructure. All of these issues are being addressed and until they are resolved to our satisfaction, we will continue with our interventions in the relevant municipalities.
The point I wish to drive home here today is that our municipalities as a whole will not be allowed to deteriorate any further under the watch of this Sixth Administration. As you can see, we are managing to turn the tide despite a huge amount of resistance from some of the municipalities we are trying to help. Despite these challenges, our focus remains on ensuring clean governance in all our municipalities even as we continue to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and mitigate its economic effects on our communities.
As I conclude, I am confident that the next time I address you on the subject of these interventions, the overall reports from these municipalities will be even more positive.
I thank you!