Leadership Focus

Thembisile Nkadimeng

SALGA President SALGA National Executive Committee

Chief Editor:

Please share with us briefly about your journey to attaining the position of National Chairperson of SALGA

Thembi Nkadimeng

As the mayor of Polokwane, I served as a member of the SALGA National Executive Committee and the Provincial Chairperson of SALGA Limpopo since 2016. I was appointed as Deputy President of SALGA when a vacancy occurred in 2018. In 2019 I was then elected as the President, following the appointment of Parks Tau as the Deputy Minister of Cogta. In November 2019, SALGA and eThekwini municipality hosted the United Cities and Local Government (UCLG) Congress and the World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders, I was then elected Co-President of UCLG for the 2019 to 2022 term.

Chief Editor:

The media has recently painted a negative picture of local government as a result of the Auditor General’s report on the state of our municipalities. What is SALGA’s plan or strategy to change this status quo?

Thembi Nkadimeng

SALGA has noted with concern the decline in  audit  outcomes  together  with   the   challenges in governance, oversight and consequence management. To address this SALGA has taken a stance to extract accountability from our members by amongst other things:

  • Writing letters to all municipalities flagged by the AGSA to extract accountability and demand that consequence management occurs for all offenders.

SALGA will analyse responses and if necessary work in conjunction with National Treasury and COGTA

to ensure that the municipalities are held to account.

  • SALGA is establishing MOU`s with various professional bodies so that offenders who have been found guilty of misconduct and wrong doing can have their memberships and associations terminated/blacklisted
    • For the municipalities identified for support SALGA in conjunction with Treasury and Co- operative governance is in the process of forming a task team to ensure a co-ordinated approach to support and to monitor progress on the implementation of action plans
    • SALGA is also in the process of roping in additional skills and capacity

to support municipalities through the establishment of a community of practice with various stakeholders in the private and public sector.

  • SALGA has developed a consequence management framework and will in addition to this  be  working  closely  with  MPACS that have been identified as ineffective to capacitate and advise them

Chief Editor:

Apart from a number of regulations and pieces    of legislations that must be adhered to in local government, there are also a number of organs of states such as National Treasury and Cooperative Governance & Traditional Affairs to name a few that provide support and guidelines. How do we ensure these are complementary and of value rather than it becoming an administrative nightmare to local government spheres?

Thembi Nkadimeng

  • It is a common and justifiable complaint from our members that the local government space is over regulated. The reporting burden and cost of compliance for municipalities is very high and at times counterproductive. However in order to be able to effectively lobby for a reduction in the  compliance and reporting burden municipalities  need to address the challenges around the effectiveness of their governance structures and run a clean administration.
  • It is true that in the past support from stakeholders has been somewhat uncoordinated and fragmented, this has

compromised the effectiveness of support

initiatives because municipalities felt that there was a lot of duplication. To address this SALGA, Treasury and Co-operative governance have entered into an MOU to roll out joint support and allocate areas of responsibility to the parties to the MOU. This  will  reduce  duplication  and  achieve

better coordination. This arrangement will be cascaded down to the provincial support structures. In addition to this, SALGA has always worked very closely with other stakeholders namely the Auditor General, the Accounting Standards Board, South African Institute of Chartered Accountants and CIGFARO to roll out support programs and will continue to do so.

Chief Editor:

Councillors are representatives of communities  on the Municipal Council where they  must  ensure service delivery  is  undertaken  as  per  the Integrated Development Plans for their respective communities.  However  for  years there has been a disconnect between Municipal Councils and Communities. This is evident by the increasing number of protest action arising due to service delivery issues. Communities are taking Municipalities to court for not delivering on their mandate. In your view what has attributed to this and how can it be improved upon?

Thembi Nkadimeng

  • Local government is the sector that is closest to communities and is tasked with servicing these communities. The increase in protests is an expression of the growing discontent and increasing demand for services which our municipalities are struggling to fulfil. A number of studies that have been conducted show that the demand for goods and services together with the infrastructure needed to deliver these services has far outstripped the growth in municipal grant allocations.

This means that the sector cannot

look exclusively to grant funding to finance new

infrastructure and maintain existing infrastructure.

Municipalities find themselves under

severe pressure to improve revenue collections from traditional sources while having to explore and tap in to new revenue sources to ensure sustainability.

  • Another reason for the discontent amongst communities is the negative picture around local government. As municipalities struggle to keep up with the demand

for services the negative image of local government exacerbates the discontent as it is perceived that money which could be used for service delivery is being misused and wasted. Part of the strategy for bridging the divide between local government and communities revolves around cleaning up the image of local government and increased transparency.

The improvement in audit outcomes and the meeting out of appropriate sanctions

to those implicated in wrong doing

is central to this. This will give more confidence to the communities we serve and also encourage them to work with us as we find solutions to better service their needs.

Chief Editor:

Municipalities are challenged  in  the  collection  of revenue and are struggling to collect most of what they bill, with billions now being owed to municipalities by communities, businesses and other government departments. The Covid-19 pandemic has further added to this as businesses are also struggling to survive with many having to retrench employees. This has resulted in household income decreasing which ultimately has the ripple effect of municipal consumers not being able to

pay for services rendered. However, municipalities are expected to continue to render services whilst still maintaining financial sustainability. What is SALGA’s stance in regards to this matter?

Thembi Nkadimeng

The outbreak of Covid-19 dramatically increased the number of poor households and some research institutions are predicting broader unemployment levels of up to between 50 and 60%. One of the key focus areas for local government to emerge better from the pandemic should be resolving the state of municipal finances. Indeed, the current reality is that the aggregate municipal consumer debts amounted to R191.5 billion at the end of 2019/20 financial year, of which not all are realistically collectable. The largest component of this debt relates to households and represents R133.9 billion whilst government departments account for R14.8 billion. The situation is further exacerbated by retracted economic growth, limited tax revenues and rising debt levels due to unaffordable burden on struggling ratepayers.

Therefore, SALGA is advocating and lobbying for the following:

  • In  providing  support  to   municipalities   to enhance revenue collection, the amendment to the Tax Administration Act so that before SARS pays tax refunds, they first check if the particular tax payer does not have  monies due to his/her municipality.  If the tax payer owes, the amount due to municipality will be paid first.
    • Amendment to schedule 2 section 10 of the Municipal System Act so that it is not only municipal Councillors and employees who may not be in arrears with their municipal bills for a period more than three months. This requirement should be extended to all state employees and elected and appointed representatives in other spheres.
    • Establishment of a district-based Revenue Collection Agency. This will achieve better collection efficiencies and will free up municipal personnel to focus on more pressing service deliver efforts. SARS systems and processes would be considered in putting this together after due diligence is done.
    • An amendment to the Procurement Regulations to make it  compulsory  for  any potential service provider to produce   a Municipal Services Rates compliance certificate, prior to being awarded a government contract.
    • An amendment to the Vehicle Licensing Registration Regulations to withhold the

issuing of vehicle licenses if municipal rates and service charges are outstanding.

  • Collaborative campaigns with other stakeholders to encourage citizens who can afford to pay their municipal bills to do so.

Chief Editor:

Over the years, there has been an alarming increase in irregular  and  wasteful  expenditure  by many municipalities, where no consequence management is seen to be taking place either by oversight structures or from the administrative point of view. Surely, we can’t continue in this manner going forward. What firm action should be taken in this regard?

Thembi Nkadimeng

It is true that we can’t continue along this trajectory and it is for this reason  that  SALGA  has taken the stance that we must use all tools   at our disposal to extract accountability and consequence management. Part of the reason for the continued increase in irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure is the lack of consequences for offenders. In addition to this many council members and oversight structures are not confident in exercising their oversight responsibilities due to challenges around skills and capacity.

SALGA is developing guidelines

around financial management, asset management and the aforementioned consequence and accountability

framework to help councillors. In addition to this

we will be rolling out the aforementioned support to MPAC’s and oversight structures.

  • It must also be mentioned that the extended rollout of the Amended Public Audit Act will place the spotlight firmly on the effectiveness of the leadership and oversight structures of municipalities with serious consequences for the leadership if effective oversight and consequence management is not effected. The National Prosecuting Authority has also placed focus on a number of cases involving

municipalities so the landscape is certainly shifting with regards to accountability and consequences.

  • SALGA  together  with  its   partners   will  be rolling out significant supply chain management training and capacity building. One of the things that the COVID pandemic has emphasized is the shortcomings in public procurement compliance  and  this is an area which needs to be strengthened expeditiously

Chief Editor:

What is your message to those who continue to erode public funds and resources meant for the much needed service delivery to the communities?

Thembi Nkadimeng

Public money ought to be used with the most scrupulous conscientiousness of honour. As public servants we have been entrusted with making sure it is used for its intended purpose. Building trust about public money, is about putting in place comprehensive mechanisms to demonstrate to South Africans it is being spent for the public good. Lack of trust discourages business and deters investment. Those who have been found to be misusing funds should face the consequences and the full might of the law. South Africans must believe that individuals will be held responsible for their actions, no matter who they are.

Chief Editor:

As we drive governance fundamentals for the People and with you being seen as a leader by many, what would be your message to fellow Councillors and leaders within the local government sphere?

Thembi Nkadimeng

Good governance is at the heart of any successful business.

Having good governance ensures that political authorities and institutions are held

accountable to guarantee human rights are met.

Leaders should be accountable and responsive to the communities they serve, transparent in their reporting on the use of public resources and in decision making, and that create opportunities for participation in policy and service delivery. One of the biggest tests of good governance we are faced with is to ensure citizens feel secure and trust us to conduct public affairs in the best interests of society as a whole rather than for the privileged few.

Every leader should know that having and applying good governance entails processes, decisions and outcomes that sustain natural resources, alleviate poverty and improve the quality-of-life of our citizens.

My contribution and efforts in serving will always be people-centred, people-driven and gender sensitive.

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