By GEOFF EMBLING, Democratic Alliance Ward 4 Councillor
Seven members of parliament from Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) paid an oversight visit to Makana Municipality on 17 September 2022.
National COGTA is a multi-party portfolio committee that scrutinises local municipality governance and holds them to account. COGTA spent a full day at the monument sharing its findings on Makana, asking questions, and listening to stakeholders’ complaints.
Each member of COGTA, regardless of political party affiliation, was scathing of the administration running Makana Municipality. Throughout the day, COGTA’s primary target was the Municipal Manager (MM), the chief accounting officer, for the three consecutive disclaimers given to Makana during the MM’s four-year term in office.
A disclaimer is the worst finding by the Auditor General, whereby records of financial spending cannot be accounted for. COGTA referred to the fact that municipalities sometimes intentionally destroy documents to hide the tracks of irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure. Makana’s most recent disclaimer was particularly disturbing because it included findings of exceedingly poor record keeping and “substantial harm” to the municipality.
Members of the COGTA delegation pointed out that despite severe and adverse findings within the municipality, the Municipal Manager’s response to the Auditor General’s conclusions was that no one within the municipality was responsible. One COGTA representative stated wryly that maybe someone in the sky or under the earth was responsible because Makana Municipality, under the current Municipal Manager, has been devoid of consequence management.
COGTA referred to hundreds of millions of rands granted to Makana Municipality by the national government for infrastructure upgrades and maintenance, for which there is little fruitful evidence. Makana’s water infrastructure, roads, electrical distribution network, sewage infrastructure and state of cleanliness are steadily declining. The delegation from COGTA committed themselves to further investigation on the matters raised.
The situation in Makana is as much a political problem as it is an administrative one. Several councillors put a motion to council in March this year to suspend the Municipal Manager, citing the same reasons that COGTA representatives put forward on Saturday. The motion, however, was never tabled at council and voted on.
When the Municipal Manager’s contract ended in late July this year, the council voted to extend his contract by three months. Although there are 13 opposition councillors to 14 ANC councillors, the opposition is now so horribly split that out of 27 councillors, only five voted against extending his contract. Some opposition councillors withheld their votes, whilst others voted to keep the Municipal manager on.