There is a rates fiasco within the Department of Local government and Traditional Affairs.
Replying in a speech to the 2010/11 Annual report to the Eastern Cape Legislature today I raised the seriousness of wrong information given with regards to municipal rates policies.
The report of the department states under programme 3 finding (2) (d) that the department had assisted only three out of 45 municipalities in the province to promulgate rates policies and valuation rolls.
However, a written reply to a parliamentary question, Internal Question Paper number 16 of 2010, question 144, revealed that 38 out of 40 municipalities had been assisted to implement the provisions of the Property Rates Act.
Of concern is why the department is sending out conflicting information with regards to municipal rate implementation policies in the province.
This serious anomaly must again highlight the problems municipalities have in enforcing and collecting rates revenue income.
Local Government must stop bleating about underfunding and financial constraints when they can’t even organise a coherent rates strategy in the province.
As rates make up a small percentage and often the only independent revenue aside from grant and equitable share funding, it is criminal that the department is not oversighting this function adequately.
The sustained capacity of municipal rate collection enhances the quality of life for all, especially the vulnerable, to access services.
If there are no rates then there are no services and communities sink deeper into helplessness and poverty.
I today I asked the MEC in the House to do the following to rectify the situation:
Firstly to obtain the correct facts around rate implementation in the province and to then make this information public.
In addition I have suggested that rate revenue collection and policy be one of the main performance review benchmarks for the employment contracts of Municipal Managers and Chief Financial Officers.
Finally I suggested that innovative ways be found to ensure that rate reviews and incentives also be considered to attract greater business and/or residential influence in every municipality in the province.