KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala has mandated the provincial department of co-operative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) to conduct an assessment of all 54 municipalities in the province which incurred R2.94bn in irregular expenditure in the past financial year.
Delivering his state of the province address in the KZN legislature in Pietermaritzburg on Friday, Zikalala said the regression in the performance by municipalities was of great concern to the provincial government.
The province, he said, was particularly concerned about high levels of consumer debt, as well as irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
He said the report on the audit outcomes for the 2017/18 financial delivered by auditor-general Kimi Makwetu on Wednesday depicted a “terrible state of local government that is in decline, where public officials are simply not implementing advice”.
“To counter this regression, we have mandated the department of co-operative governance and traditional affairs to conduct an assessment on the status of all 54 municipalities. Working with the office of the auditor-general, we undertake to support these municipalities in order to improve the municipal audit outcomes,” he said.
Makwetu revealed that municipalities had incurred R2.94bn in irregular expenditure due to “blatant disregard of legislation and intentional abuse of systems and processes in the local sphere of government”.
The provincial overview of KZN revealed that six municipalities failed to disclose the full extent of their irregular expenditure, indicating that the value could be even higher.
Ethekwini municipality, uThukela, Umzinyathi, Ugu and Umkhanyakude district municipalities collectively accounted for R1.76bn of the total disclosed irregular expenditure.
Zikalala said the provincial government was also disturbed by public protests in municipalities as a result of poor services provided to communities.
“In the coming months we shall be conducting home visits, starting with the eThekwini municipality, Msunduzi and many other affected municipalities, to discuss with ordinary members of society all issues related to service delivery.
“In eThekwini in particular, we have recently witnessed the kind of social strife that can be ignited if local government fails to deliver on the mandate that the electorate has entrusted us with. We have taken a firm decision to insource all critical services, such as maintenance and refuse removal, to ensure proper controls and improved levels of cleanliness in all cities, townships and rural areas,” he said.
Zikalala admitted that some municipalities had failed to live up to their mandates. “We want to make a firm undertaking that we cannot, in all honesty, allow this situation to continue.”
He said the current state of the eThekwini and Msunduzi municipalities left a great concern about their capacity to provide services. Zikalala said the provincial government, through Cogta and the premier’s co-ordinating forum, will continue to support all municipalities, with a focus on building administrative capacity, financial management and uninterrupted provision of services.
“Equally, decisive interventions will be taken to enforce adherence to rules on municipalities which are not responding positively to expected standards,” he said.
Zikalala delivered his address to a partially empty legislature after a morning of drama which saw the EFF and DA walk out in protest at the presence of former president Jacob Zuma and King Goodwill Zwelithini as official guests.
DA provincial leader Zwakele Mncwango told TimesLIVE: “I think it’s important to say we’re members of the legislature. Part of our responsibility is to pass legislation and then after that we must obey the legislation.
“We have a standing rule in the house that states clearly that any person invited by the speaker or the chief whip must sit inside the chamber on condition that there has been consultation with all political party whips. And that has been rule of our house. And the ANC and chief whip have failed to do what the rule is saying.
“So our objection is not about an individual or individuals. We respect the king, we respect other individuals who were sitting there, but it’s about them as individuals and it is not their fault. The fault is within us. As the DA we were trying to correct and to ensure that we obey our rules.”
Mncwango said the speaker, Ntobeko Boyce, was “arrogant” and didn’t want to listen to their objection.