Spending on security personnel comes under sharp focus

Enforcement of councillor code of conduct top priority for Speakers*

14 December 2022 

The Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs Department convened the speaker’s forum yesterday, where direct engagements took place on high-level issues affecting the sphere of local government in the province. 

The forum, which meets every six months, is chaired by the MEC for Cogta and serves as a platform to robustly engage with speakers of municipalities on their key responsibilities and functions as outlined by the Municipal Structures and Systems Act.

In today’s meeting, several items were discussed with the aim of empowering speakers so that they can take better decisions in the management of the council affairs.

*Code of Conduct for Councillors*

 One of the things that we stressed during this engagement is the importance of speakers upholding the Code of Conduct for Councillors.

The position of Speaker requires one to be sober-minded and neutral so that they can deal with council matters in an impartial manner.

In our engagement with the Speakers, we expressed our concern about the inability of some of them to deal with council matters in line with the powers they have been given by the Code of Conduct, which is found in Schedule 7 of the Local Government Structures Act 117 of 1998. 

This code indicates that all councillors must perform their functions in good faith, honestly, and in a transparent manner. 

They are also expected at all times to act in the best interest of the municipality and in such a way that the credibility and integrity of the municipality are not compromised.

Our councillors are also expected to prioritise the needs of the people they represent.

It is within this context that, as a department, we have taken a zero-tolerance attitude towards illegal decisions that are taken by councils. 

Speakers are responsible for enforcing the code of conduct and protecting the council’s reputation.

The Speaker must also ensure that appropriate steps are taken against councillors who are in breach of the code. 

As a department, we will not shy away from requests for courts to impose cost orders in cases where councils take illegal decisions after having been warned by the department. 

*Status of Security for Councilors:*

One of the issues that came under discussion was the provision of security for councillors within our municipalities. 

This is a matter that is very sensitive and requires the utmost care, as it deals with the safety of public representatives and speaks to the allocation of public resources for this purpose. 

As a department, we are fully aware of the importance of this matter and the need for it to be handled with the utmost sensitivity and care. 

It within this context that we call for the provision of personal security to be implemented strictly in accordance with clause 14(1)(g) of the Government Gazette No. R2126 dated June 2, 2022, for the determination of upper limits of salaries, allowances, and benefits of different members of Council, which provides that: 

* Mayors and Speakers are entitled to two body guards (per shift)

* Deviation from the norm may only be based on the recommendations of the South African Police Service.

* Any other councillor, subject to a threat and risk analysis conducted by the South African Police Service

We are concerned with the situation that is currently developing within our municipalities, where some have a budget of R40 million for the provision of security. This is a matter that we continue to query with the relevant institutions, as we are of the view that security costs should not compromise service delivery.

Currently, 36 municipalities have provided councillors with security personnel without first obtaining SAPS threat and risk analysis reports.

As a matter of principle, that department encourages these municipalities to ensure that they get the SAPS threat and risk analysis reports for these councillors so that this expenditure can be regularized.

As a department, we have met several times with the SAPS in the province to discuss the slow pace of issuing threat and risk analysis.

One of the key issues raised by the police is severe capacity constraints for conducting these assessments. 

*Public Participation*

The meeting also received a presentation on the status of public participation within the province’s municipalities.

One of the key takeaways from this presentation was the lack of resource allocation for public participation purposes in municipalities. This, together with the lack of skilled personnel to manage this important program, poses a serious strain on our municipalities.

The functionality of ward committees also took centre stage, with a marked improvement noted for many municipalities in terms of the functionality of their respective ward committees.

*Indigent Policy Management*

Our municipalities are tasked with the work of approving the indigent policy. This is an important measure in the government’s efforts to protect poor households through the provision of free basic services and exemption from rates.

We are concerned that municipalities have not implemented their indigent policy properly, which jeopardises poor households who are deprived of this benefit.

*strengthening of oversight*

We wish to see our municipalities become hubs of good governance, community participation, and service delivery. A speaker in a municipality has an important role to play in the overall functioning of the municipality and the attainment of this goal. 

We wish to see our municipalities become more independent in a number of areas. 

As a sphere, local government is empowered to conduct its business independently, with the council being the highest decision making body within the municipality.

Our role of oversight of the sphere of local government is done in line with Section 154 of the Constitution, and where we have intervened in municipalities we have done so as a last resort through Section 139 of the Constitution. 

*Revenue Enhancement*

The finances of our cities and towns are still under a lot of pressure from many different directions.

This requires our municipalities to ensure that every cent that they spend is properly accounted for. 

Municipalities have to also implement measures to recoup funds from residents, businesses, and even government entities that are in arrears for municipal services. 

These are not easy decisions, as they can be unpopular, but municipalities have to take tough decisions if we are going to protect the financial viability of our municipalities. 

With this in mind, we want to see our municipalities pursue many options in order to generate new revenue. 

*Electricity Generation* 

Currently, new policies on electricity generation are that municipalities and any other business can generate 100 megawatts of electricity without any regulation. 

This is an area that our municipalities need to look into and seize, as it provides an opportunity to create employment opportunities and improve the security of the electricity supply for our municipalities, which will assist in attracting investment.  This is a space that we need our municipalities to occupy. 

*Issued by MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Sihle Zikalala.*