Public service watchdog PSAM say they are deeply concerned that provincial and municipal administrations appear to be increasingly dependent on interventions from external actors to fulfil their constitutional mandates. The Public Service Accountability Monitor was commenting after Finance MEC Oscar Mabuyane’s 2019/20 Provincial Budget Speech this week, as the provincial Department of Co-operative Governance confirmed a pending meeting between Cogta, Makana Municipality and the Department of Water and Sanitation in connection with the water situation and as industrial action by municipal workers entered its fifth week.

“Disparate planning, budgeting and implementations fosters dismal delivery,” said head of PSAM’s Monitoring and Advocacy Programme, Zukiswa Kota. “For this reason – we welcome the recent Presidential announcements relating to creating more coherent, efficient management of infrastructure projects.

PSAM welcomed the allocation by The Department of Water and Sanitation of R237 million for the James Kleynhans water treatment facility, R80 million of which is to be  set aside for the current financial year. With Phase 1 of the related plans set to be completed by March 2019, however, it was imperative that a detailed overview was provided to the public of what had been achieved to date and how the additional funds would mitigate against the current water crisis.

Kota said, however, that proper sanitation and water quality – issues of strong concern in Makhanda (Grahamstown) – were still not being addressed by the budget.

“The PSAM is deeply concerned by the impacts of contaminated water and poor sanitation on the health and wellness of children and adults with compromised immune system,” Kota said. “This constitutes a budgetary and planning issue that is deserving not only of Ministerial recognition but of urgent interventions.

“We  are of the conviction that the right to a clean environment is a right long-denied to the vast majority of South Africans that is still not adequately reflected in current spending and planning. On the planning front  – it is becoming evident that departments are not effectively utilising IGR – intergovernmental relations – to  meet service delivery objectives.

“While we are encouraged by the [Finance] MEC’s articulation of the need to increase municipal capacity, strategic planning and strengthen legislative oversight – the proof will very much need to be in the strategic plans and budget votes to be tabled by relevant MECs in due course. While we are supportive of co-creation and collaboration between the state and social actors, it is deeply concerning to us that the provincial and municipal administrations appear to be increasingly dependent on interventions from external actors to fulfil their constitutional mandates.”

Cogta spokesperson for the Eastern Cape Mamnkeli Ngam this week confirmed that they were busy setting up a meeting between Cogta, Makana Municipality and the Department of Water and Sanitation.

He said this in response to Grocott’s Mail’s questions about Bhisho’s response to a court bid by the Unemployed People’s Movement to have the municipality put under Section 139(1)(c) administration. MEC for Co-operative Governance, Fikile Xasa, is named as one of 15 respondents in the matter, for which papers were filed last week.

“As the department our mandate is to provide support to municipalities and traditional leadership institutions,” Ngam told Grocott’s Mail. “This is in terms of Section 154 of the Constitution. So if the MEC does visit Makana, it will be to get to grips with the challenges the institution is facing. Cogta’s role is to enable municipalities to perform their function. If the MEC does visit it will be to gain first-hand experience and plug in relevant and targeted support.

Meanwhile, Makana Mayor Mzukisi Mpahlwa this week told Grocott’s Mail that the last batch of protective clothing for municipal workers is expected to be delivered on 20 March. Around 200 staff from Makana’s Water and Sanitation, Parks and Recreation, Roads and Stormwater and Electricity departments have been on a go-slow since the beginning of February. They have demanded protective clothing, tools of trade and the repair of operational vehicles.

Mpahlwa said most staff had received the protective clothing and returned to work. :”We’re expecting the last batch on the 20th,” he told Grocott’s Mail.

Grocott’s Mail had not yet received a response from Makana regarding rumours that the municipality had again defaulted on payments to Eskom and could be faced with a renewed cut-off threat.

The entity’s Eastern Cape Media Desk said in response to Grocott’s Mail’s questions, “I can confirm that Eskom and Makana are engaging to remedy the municipality’s payment arrangement.”

However, they could not confirm the extent of Makana’s current debt and the extent to which it defaulted.

“We will only be able to confirm the municipal debt when we decide to follow PAJA… and advertise in newspapers. Otherwise we are prohibited by customer contractual obligations,” spokesperson Zama Mpondwana said.

* Grocott’s Mail will be publishing detailed analysis of the provincial budget by PSAM researchers online in the coming week, as well as in our next print edition. Follow our Facebook page, and PSAM’s for insight into how ECBudget 2019 is likely to affect you