SO THAT's it then. The South African government has begun to
take serious action against corrupt municipalities.
In trying to salvage the final bits of local government
integrity, the government has begun to drench some corrupt municipalities in
petrol and to burn them.
This week, the National Treasury said it planned to invoke
some sections of the country's constitution against Free State's Nala local
municipality, and to stop all financial transfers to the municipality.
To me, this is a declaration of war on municipalities that
continue to mismanage funds and others like Nala should wake up as I suspect
their turn is coming.
This is also a sign that the rights of the state – which
claims to be fiercely opposed to mismanagement of funds – have won.
Treasury said in terms of the allocations for the local
government medium-term expenditure framework for 2012/13 - 2014/15, as
published in the 2012 Division of Revenue Act (DoRA), Nala was allocated
R203.9m for the 2012/13 financial year.
It said this allocation constituted 63% of the
municipality's 2012/13 total budget of R321.5m. Of the 2012/13 allocation,
R81.6m has already been transferred to the municipality.
For the 2013/14 and 2014/15 financial years, the
municipality's DoRA allocations are R205.5m and R220.7m, respectively.
But Nala had repeatedly failed to comply with municipal
budget and reporting regulations including, among other things, failure to
submit the 2009/10 and 2010/11 audit reports, the 2009/10 and 2010/11 annual
financial statements, the 2009/10 and 2010/11 MFMA Section 72 reports and
annual and performance assessment reports.
Treasury is empowered by Section 216(2) of the constitution
to stop the transfer of funds to any organ of state that commits a serious or
persistent breach of the measures prescribed to promote transparency,
accountability and the effective financial management of the economy, debt and
the public sector.
The government has to be lauded for this action against
Nala. Nevertheless, it should go beyond punishing municipalities that fail to
submit audits and so forth, but also target those that correctly submit audits
but are corrupt to the core in many other ways.
While the ANC and government are still contemplating the
idea of doing away with tenders, the government should investigate the process
of state tender allocations and what characters win these tenders.
Treasury's expertise will be highly appreciated in this
Every week I get calls from frustrated South African
citizens, complaining bitterly and alleging that rampant corruption in Sedibeng
and Emfuleni municipal districts is destroying their lives.
These municipalities are situated 40km south of Johannesburg
and include Vanderbijlpark, Vereeniging, Evaton, Sharperville and Boipatong
The municipalities are part of the 95% of South Africa’s 283
municipalities that received unclean audits after auditor general Terence
Nombembe's investigation earlier this year.
In these areas, allegations of very lucrative tenders going
to well-known tavern owners abound. Government's low-income houses are
allegedly sold or given (for free) to friends while actual beneficiaries, who
applied many years ago, do not receive them.
Compared to Soweto, South Africa's biggest township, these
townships are very small but they still do not have tarred roads while about
99% of Soweto's streets are tarred.
But the townships of Emfuleni and Sedibeng have played an
amazing role in the struggle against apartheid.
Former president Nelson Mandela chose Sharpeville for
signing into law the new constitution of the country on December 10 1996.
Of course, mismanagement of funds is not confined to these
municipalities. It is surely happening in other municipalities across the
country too, and should be tackled in all of them.
In many townships, lack of service delivery has always been
a problem. But the municipalities responsible for this have seldom been held
accountable for their actions year after year.
For years the problem of corruption in municipalities has
seemed impregnable. But I am convinced that the fortress seems to be collapsing
* Mzwandile Jacks is a freelance journalist.
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