Trade union Solidarity says that more than a third of South African municipalities are dysfunctional at various levels.
Pravin Gordhan, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, said in response to a parliamentary question earlier this week, that a third of South African municipalities are dysfunctional.
According to Dr Eugene Brink, senior researcher at the Solidarity Research Institute, Solidarity has, over the past two years, examined various aspects pertaining to municipal service delivery in six provinces.
The research findings revealed serious shortcomings as far as basic service delivery is concerned.
“For example, our research shows that huge backlogs exist in North West Province as far as refuse removal is concerned and that pit toilets still abound in this province. In many municipalities, notably in the Free State, North West and even in certain parts of Gauteng, residents don’t have clean drinking water,” Brink said.
Moreover, most municipalities in the Eastern Cape, North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga rate very poorly when it comes to audit opinions by the Auditor-General.”
He said that the non-delivery of basic services, poor management, a total lack of capacity, cadre deployment, impunity of transgressors and non-performers are, and will remain, the major obstacles municipalities have to surmount.
“Moreover, operating costs are driven up by employing consultants to do the work of those who have been appointed and are still employed to do a certain job. The taxpayer, therefore, has to pay double, yet there is still little improvement in municipalities’ audit opinions,” Brink said.
As much as R454 million was spent on consultants in the 2012/13 financial year by 195 South African municipalities.
And of those 195 municipalities, only 69 received a clean audit while 53 received a disclaimer, eight an adverse audit and 65 a qualified audit.
Solidarity pointed out that the South African Institute for Race Relations also found that poor municipal service delivery could be attributed to political appointments, a lack of capacity and a lack of accountability.
“Our research indicates that a total lack of service delivery is experienced in the majority of local municipalities – and not just in one third of municipalities. So far, the Western Cape is the only province where municipal service delivery is at a desired level,” Brink says.
“Minister Gordhan will first have to realise the full extent of the decline in municipal service delivery before he could attempt to resolve the problem,” Brink said.