New legislation signed into law this week is an important element of turning around the performance of local government, preventing the abuse of public resources and stamping out the sheltering of officials who move from municipality to municipality following wrongdoing, the Presidency says.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has enacted legal provisions directed at improving the capacity and ethical standards of local government through, among others, the way senior appointments are made and by preventing high-ranking officials from holding political office in political parties.
In a media statement, the Presidency said the law also enabled municipalities to conduct recruitment searches nationally, in order to widen the pool of talent they could attract.
Spokesperson Vincent Ngwenya said, “The President has assented to the Local Government: Municipal Systems Amendment Bill of 2022, as part of building the capacity of the state at the level of government that has the most immediate impact on the way communities live.
“The new legislation is an important element of turning around the performance of local government, preventing the abuse of public resources and stamping out the sheltering of officials who move from municipality to municipality following wrongdoing.”
Among its far-reaching interventions, the new legislation provided for the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to make regulations relating to the duties, remuneration, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment of municipal managers and managers directly accountable to municipal managers.
The law requires that a vacant post of municipal manager be advertised nationally to attract as wide as possible a pool of candidates. A person may be selected for appointment as municipal manager only from this pool of candidates.
If the pool of candidates is insufficient, the municipal council may re-advertise the post. Provision is, however, made for the Minister to exempt a municipal council from these strict appointment requirements if the municipal council is unable to attract a suitable candidate, which may happen especially in the rural areas.
Ngwenya said the legislative amendments barred municipal managers and managers directly accountable to municipal managers from holding political office in political parties.
“Political office refers to the position of chairperson, deputy chairperson, secretary, deputy secretary or treasurer of a political party nationally or in any province, region or other area in which the party operates. Other political rights of senior managers are unaffected by the amendment and they remain entitled to enjoy and exercise these rights freely.” Ngwenya said.
In a different area, the law now directs that any staff member of any municipality who has been dismissed for misconduct may only be re-employed in any municipality after the expiry of a prescribed period.
A staff member dismissed for financial misconduct contemplated in the Local Government: Municipal Finance Management Act, 2003 (Act No. 56 of 2003), corruption or fraud, may not be re-employed for a period of five years.
Municipalities are now required to maintain a record regarding the disciplinary proceedings of staff members dismissed for misconduct and forward it to the provincial Member of the Executive Council for local government, who must forward it to the Minister to keep and make available to municipalities as prescribed.
President Ramaphosa said, “A capable, ethical state requires a strong foundation at local level, and the new law will go a long way to building communities’ confidence in local government and enabling stronger partnerships and cooperation between municipalities and the communities they serve.”