The minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Zweli Mkhize says his ministry has taken a decision to step in and support dysfunctional municipalities in a bid to improve service delivery.
Speaking at a media briefing at the Imbizo Centre recently Mkhize highlighted that his ministry, through its implementing agent the Municipal Infrastructure Support Grant, had decided to intervene extensively and urgently in dysfunctional municipalities and those in distress, in relation to the development and maintenance of infrastructure.
The Minister said despite government’s successful infrastructure delivery programme over the past 20 years, accompanied by technical capacity building initiatives over the years, municipalities still struggle to use the funds allocated to them.
He said based on the department’s assessments and reports, the performance of a majority of all municipalities was still lagging.
Seven percent of the country’s municipalities are classified as well functioning. About 31% are reasonably functional, while some 31% are almost dysfunctional. The remaining 31% are dysfunctional, Minister Mkhize said.
Various constraints impeding municipal spend
Since 2012/13, a total of R3.4 billion in Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) transfers was stopped and was reallocated from underspending municipalities to better spending municipalities.
Minister Mkhize said this was not ideal, as it had an inadvertent consequence of penalising municipalities with a lower capacity, which “punishes” poorer communities.
“This cannot continue. Alternatives must be found to support service delivery to poorer communities.”
The Minister said over the same period, municipalities failed to spend a total of R8.2 billion. Between 2013/14 and the current financial year, a total of 55 municipalities had their annual MIG allocations stopped at least twice.
The Minister said that an analysis conducted revealed that these municipalities have various inherent constraints that impede spending.
Technical teams to be dispatched
“The situation requires the urgent deployment of MISA technical capacity experts, in the form of District Technical Support Teams, who will provide support to municipalities towards improving service delivery.
The focus of the teams according to the minister will be to provide infrastructure planning, delivery, operation and maintenance as well as infrastructure management, financial management as well as governance and administration issues.
The deployment will place emphasis on the provision of scarce skills such as civil engineering, construction and project management, financial/accounting expertise, town and regional planning, as well as expertise in governance and administration.
It is envisaged that these teams will build permanent capacity in these municipalities beyond project implementation, the Minister said.
“Importantly, all supported municipalities will be expected to develop and adopt financial recovery plans to ensure that they become financially stable and have the capacity to independently fund their commitments,” he concluded.