Speech notes: Consideration of the CoGTA Portfolio Committee’s oversight report

EASTERN CAPE MUNICIPALITIES LIVING FROM HAND TO MOUTH

  • Irregular expenditure, maladministration and corruption is rife in Eastern Cape Municipalities
  • Service Delivery is buckling under the pressure of severe maladministration in the Eastern Cape

Honourable speaker, honourable premier, honourable members and guests, good afternoon.

From the visits of the Portfolio Committee it is clear that Service Delivery in the Eastern Cape is buckling under the pressure of maladministration, huge amounts of irregular expenditure and corruption, at the end of the day it is the people of the province who suffer.

This report is riddled with words such as ‘irregular expenditure’ and ‘poor infrastructure’ and ‘lack of capacity’.

Our municipalities are under threat of having their electricity cut off due to massive debts owed to ESKOM, some municipalities are facing severe drought and have started programmes of water shedding. While people were hoping for a better South Africa 24 years after democracy, they are under a constant threat that the promises of a better life are dwindling away.

Our municipalities in the Eastern Cape are in a state of living from ‘hand to mouth’’!

Honourable Speaker, a persistent lack of maintenance, poor security, bad project planning, ineffective public servants, corrupt politicians and business people, poor service delivery and not enough capital expenditure (because it’s all going on public service salaries) are conspiring to shake the infrastructure of South Africa.

Government has become an employment agency. Almost the entire budgets of municipalities are going to cost of employment with nothing left for service delivery. Cyril Ramaphosa recently said that 30 000 public servants jobs will have to be shed. Years and years of cadre deployment has resulted in a bloated public service that has lost touch with people.

Honourable speaker, the Democratic Alliance noted with concern that the Auditor-general Kimi Makwetu has raised concern over the financial situation of municipalities in the Eastern Cape in his national municipal audit report for the 2016/17 financial year.

Irregular expenditure of R13.55-billion‚ 48% of the total‚ was incurred by municipalities in the Eastern Cape. Half of irregular expenditure has taken part in the Eastern Cape. Honourable Speaker, not just is this completely unacceptable, it is an indictment of the leadership in our local municipalities, further, it depicts insufficiencies by COGTA. It is factors like these that directly impacts on the decline in investor confidence in the province and within the poor performing municipalities, which adds to the high unemployment rates in this province.

What is of further concern, Honourable Speaker is the manner in which the Drought Disaster has been handled by Provincial and National Departments. Two Eastern Cape towns must start ‘water shedding’.

The municipality has also applied for drought relief funding. Earlier this year, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize said the national state of disaster over drought had lapsed on the 13th of June this year and would not be renewed. So what support are we giving to our people? COGTA is not doing enough to mitigate the effects of the drought. The best time to have acted was 2 years ago; the second best time is now! If we don’t do it now, Honourable Speaker, we will regret it.

Honourable Speaker, the amalgamated municipalities are suffering. Walter Sisulu Local Municipality had outstanding debt of almost R 200 million when amalgamation took effect in 2016. They have been under administration for almost a year. What good has it done when the debt of WSLM is still at R 197.6 million – R 152.9 million owed to ESKOM, R 22.54 to the Pension Fund, R 15.68 to Trade and R 5.54 to the Auditor General? When your expenses exceed your income, how will this debt ever be settled, and more importantly with what will you deliver services – the answer is YOU WONT!

In Dr Beyers Naude Municipality infrastructure is falling apart, only 2.7% of the budget is used for maintenance of infrastructure. Cost of Employment is at 45% of the budget.

These amalgamated municipalities are all carrying a burden of previous mismanagement and irregular expenditure. What is being done to carry out forensic audits on these debts, what is being done to carry out forensic audits on these amounts of irregular expenditure, what are the negations with creditors and what will be done about the non-delivery of services? How are we helping these municipalities or are we just turning a blind eye?

Communities often express their unhappiness and frustration with poor service delivery, lack of access to water, maladministration, and corruption through protests, which have been occurring regularly across the country. I want to use the example of Emalahleni Municipality where protestors are occupying municipal buildings and causing chaos due to allegations of corruption, nepotism and poor service delivery. I am glad that the MEC finally sent a task team there this week to investigate these allegations.

These situations can be turned around as is proved by DA governed NMBM. It is well known that the NMBM has in the region of R 2.5 Billion in the bank and what the voters of city fear is the repeated attempts to depose the DA led coalition government has very little to do with the desire of good governance but rather to loot the coffers of the municipality. And for those of you that are unfamiliar with this approach I suggest you read the book “how to steal a city ’where these looting attempts are documented very carefully. With regard to tomorrows Council meeting it is indeed a tragic irony that in order to remove the current government the ANC is going to have to rely on convicted criminals in their own ranks to bring about the equivalent of a political cash in transit heist! I say lock them up!

Every effort of government must be focussed on improving the lives of South Africans. As we continue to fight against the challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality we need all spheres of government and all organs of the state to effectively deliver on their responsibilities to make South Africa a better place to live for all its people.

Honourable Speaker, what is going on in Eastern Cape Municipalities is corruption of the highest order. When we leave this chamber at the end of our tenure, people will ask us if we fought corruption, and we must be able to answer that question with a clear conscience and say YES, I have fought corruption. But it is not enough to just say that we have fought corruption, we must be able to say we fought corruption and triumphed. We must be able to say that we have eradicated corruption in its entirety and that we have put measures in place to prevent it. We must be fully accountable! Our responsibility is colossal. The Democratic Alliance will continue in our efforts to root out incompetence, non-compliance, cadre deployment and corruption in government in general and in local municipalities specifically.

In this respect the governing party should take note of the recent by-election in WSLM where the DA took a ward off the ANC, the voters are sending message and the spirit of the Blue Wave of Change is sweeping through this province.

The DA supports the report by the department.

Thank you.

— Vicky Knoetze MPL, Shadow MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.