By Zintle Mahlati

JOHANNESBURG – A group of 35 civil society organisations have called on the government to take up their guidelines to better improve service delivery on the local government level.

The group includes organisations such as Afesis-corplan, Alliance for Rural Democracy, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation and Blacksash.

The crisis facing local municipalities is dire and has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, the organisations said.

The bulk of the concerns stem from the Auditor General’s report released by outgoing AG Kimi Makwetu in July this year.

The report showed that fruitless and wasteful expenditure had amounted to R32 billion.

“Over the three years, R4.27bn of government expenditure was fruitless and wasteful. In total, 91% of the municipalities did not comply with legislation. The outcome is similar to the previous year and slightly higher than the 85% in 2016/17,” Makwetu said on the release of the latest figures.

The civil society said many of the issues faced by local governments were critical in ensuring that citizens thrive. They want the government to make use of the broad outreach that NGOs have within communities to solve some of the issues faced by municipalities.

“As signatories, we have come to say we are here and work in this space and have been thinking about game-changing issues needed to change the space. We are saying the transformation of South Africa depends on transforming local government. We cannot sit by and not do anything as civil society, said Nontando Ngamlana an executive director at Afesis-complain which based in the Eastern Cape.

Some of the key areas that need to be transformed, the NGOs said, include the strengthening of oversight through Municipal Public Accounts committees and audit and risk committees which should be staffed with skilled persons who can better scrutinise the numbers.

A second area deals with improving access to information and transparency.

“We are requesting municipalities to allow for better access to information so that operations are better monitored. A lot of municipalities do not have functional websites with readily available information. You have to go from pillar to post to get information,” said Luyanda Shilangu, from the Public Service Accountability Monitor.

Another key area was ensuring that municipalities are staffed with qualified individuals and not through cadre deployment which the organisations believe has starved municipalities of qualified individuals.

The NGOs said their call for change in local government management was for the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta), the presidency, Parliament and Salga to better ensure municipalities do the job they were created to perform

Political Bureau