By Anna Majavu
The Action for Accountability (A4A) Project has called on the Eastern Cape MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Zolile Williams, to investigate Makana municipality over its four consecutive audit disclaimers.
Grocott’s Mail reported in March this year that Makana municipality had hit rock bottom after the Auditor-General (AG) found it had no proper plans for service delivery, and no system to punish the municipal officials who committed unauthorised, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
The A4A project, a partnership of Rhodes University’s Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM), the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation (AKF), and the Accountability Lab South Africa (ALSA), said in a press statement yesterday that Williams must “act in accordance with section 106 of the Municipal Systems Act to investigate the Municipality so as to support lasting corrective action”.
In January 2020, Makana became the first municipality to have its council dissolved by the High Court for failing in its constitutional duty to provide services to residents. (The dissolution never took place because the municipality, with the support of Eastern Cape Premier, Oscar Mabuyane, appealed the judgment, and before the appeal could be heard, a new council was elected in the November 2021 local government elections).
It has also been placed under administration and had recovery plans drawn up for it by the provincial government several times. The A4A said these previous provincial government interventions “were too “light touch” and ineffective”. The Municipal Systems Act allowed MECs to appoint investigators if they believed that “maladministration, fraud, corruption or any other serious malpractice has occurred or is occurring in a municipality”, and this should happen now in Makana, said the A4A.
The A4A added that Makana municipality must also “develop plans based on the needs of their communities, approve funded budgets, improve governance and be accountable to their citizens”. They also questioned where the oversight committee was when Makana municipality was unable to account for large chunks of its spending.
Last week, the Auditor General released her report into South Africa’s municipalities, which showed “another year and new audit outcomes, yet the problems that plague local government remain largely the same”, A4A said. Of the 257 municipalities and 17 public entities that were audited, the number of clean audits decreased by 7.3%.
The A4A also called upon the South African Police Service and the National Prosecuting Authority to start actually prosecuting municipal officials and elected leaders who breach the law. “Criminality within municipalities by staff, elected representatives, and contracted service providers should result in perpetrators facing jail time, rather than whistleblowers’ lives being placed at risk, or worse yet killed due to inaction or complicity by duty-bearers,” said A4A.