The Auditor General has painted a grim picture of financial mismanagement in the country’s 257 municipalities, saying accountability continued to deteriorate while irregular expenditure remained high.
State capture has had, and is still having, a devastating effect on all facets of South African society. In terms of reporting, state capture has taken centre stage. The capture of South Africa’s municipalities, was, still is, perhaps even more devastating. Lucrative municipalities were turned into dysfunctional bankrupt entities as a result of state capture, incompetence, maladministration, greed and simple thievery. This had the effect of decimating towns, businesses and jobs.
Although many of us can shrug off responsibility for the looting of our national assets, we cannot entirely do that where it involves the looting of the environment in which we work and live – at municipal level. It happened right in front of our eyes because we chose not to be involved; because we chose not to know.
MEASURES RECENTLY INTRODUCED BY THE MINISTER OF FINANCE
The Minister of Finance, Mr Tito Mboweni, and the Treasury have recently introduced regulations aimed at arresting corruption and wasteful expenditure. These regulations impact all areas of municipal affairs - business class flights, expensive cars, parties, team building exercises, budget vote dinners, the funding of elections and campaign activities, etc.
The regulations highlight the extent to which municipal officials and public representatives have lived large at the expense of the fiscus and the ratepayers and continue to spend public funds on non-priority items.
THESE MEASURES EMPOWER SOCIETY TO HOLD MUNICIPALITIES ACCOUNTABLE
The regulations make it compulsory for every municipality to draw up a cost-containment plan - which has to be displayed on its website - with consequences in the case of non-compliance.
HOWEVER, WITHOUT VIGILANT INVOLVEMENT IT WILL ALL COME TO NOTHING
These actions by Treasury are positive steps in the process of returning municipalities to functionality. However, the citizenry have to play its role in order to ensure that this takes place:
- business (and individuals) have to get involved on an organised and diligent basis;
- cost-containment plans have to be evaluated;
- municipal performances have to be vigilantly monitored;
- poor performance and non-compliance must not be tolerated; and
- where municipalities don’t respond positively where and when compliance is demanded, the Treasury has to be called upon to resolve the issue.
All these actions by Treasury have been implemented to hold municipalities accountable. However, it is only the local community, in particular the business community, that is capable of demanding accountability.
Without a vigilant community the old destructive habits will continue and we will only have ourselves to blame.
This opinion piece is by Gerhard Papenfus, Chief Executive of the National Employers’ Association of South Africa (NEASA). He writes this in his personal capacity.