Pretoria - A proposal to appoint all municipal councillors full time on a salary scale matching that for provincial legislators and parliament could cost at least R6.3bn a year.
Sicelo Shiceka, minister of Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs, came up with this proposal in Cape Town on Tuesday at the annual congress of public accounts committees.
According to media reports, Shiceka said municipal councillors should be appointed at the same job level as their colleagues in the legislature and parliament, so that they could move with greater ease between jobs at different government levels.
He reckoned they should be appointed on a full time basis, so that they could devote their full attention to municipal issues.
Sake24 has calculated that, at an average salary of R700 000-odd per member of the legislature, the wage bill for the country's more than 9 000 councillors would cost the taxpayer R6.3bn a year.
Anita Botha, a municipal consultant, says a system such as this is unaffordable.
She points out that the costs would not end there, because full-time councillors would need offices, computers and other infrastructure.
She mentioned the example of a rural municipality with 67 councillors but only five officials. It would have to erect an office complex to house all its full-time officials.
There is not enough work to keep all councillors busy all the time, and they would then begin to interfere with the administration - which is a violation of municipal statutes, she warns.
Officials have to carry out policy requiring appropriate technical expertise, and for that reason they are paid market-related salaries, she says.
Wellies Welgemoed, a director at Akhile Municipal Consultants, says the principle of making the position of councillor more attractive to experts via better remuneration is a good one. But he also declares it unaffordable.
The current system in which only members of the executive committee or mayoral committee are at the office full time works well, he believes.
Willem Doman, DA spokesperson on local government, says the minister cannot solve the problem of poor municipal management with high salaries. Currently only about one-tenth of the country's councillors spend all their time at the office.
Provision will have to be made for the other 90% if they should begin to work full time.
Only metro councils and secondary towns can possibly afford this expense because the 70%-odd of smaller municipalities already receive grants from Treasury to pay salaries, Doman explains.
He reckons Shiceka's proposal will place an unaffordable burden on state coffers.
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