On 12 October 2023, DDP hosted its annual Local Government Conference under the theme: 25 years on: The white paper on local government – towards a developmental local government.
Matters up for discussion included the fact that many South African municipalities suffer service-delivery problems that can usually be ascribed to inadequate management, skills, and budgets. The reasons for these, in turn, invariably include weak economic base, unwise spending of available funds, and difficulty in recruiting and retaining skilled staff.
The White Paper on Local Government of 1998, to which Valli Moosa, the then Minister for Provincial Affairs and Constitutional Development, referred as “almost [being] regarded as a ‘mini-Constitution’ for local government”, together with the Municipal Demarcation Act of the same year, spelled out the framework in terms of which the local government system would be transformed. Municipalities, covering the entire country “wall-to-wall”, were thereafter established and powers and functions were assigned to them. After more than two decades, there can no longer be any doubt that many municipalities are, to a significant extent, failing in their primary duty of delivering services.
Certain forms of corruption in service delivery (such as clientelism, patronage, bribery) undermine the human right of equal access to public services, and exacerbate fundamental inequalities that violate citizens access, affecting the most marginalised and underrepresented segments of the population the most. Moreover, rampant corruption can lead to breakdowns in the service delivery chain, rendering the state apparatus incapable of meeting its obligations to safeguard its citizens , with catastrophic consequences such as famine and lack of basic medical supplies. Inability or unwillingness to curb corruption can therefore be seen as a failure by states to adequately provide for human rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural, as well as the right to development – by depriving citizens access to public services.
This creates a greater divide and inequality in society as the wealthy can afford private services. There is, therefore, a compelling argument to consider the fight against corruption in service delivery as an integral part of the human rights-based approach to development.
Despite the Auditor-General (AG) having expressed concern that after all the years of reporting shortcomings and making recommendations, municipalities have still not mastered the basics of financial reporting, with only 28% being able to submit quality financial statements for audit purposes in the 2019/2020 financial year.
Among many adverse findings including blowing billions of rands as a result of irregular and unauthorised expenditure, the AG’s report noted that 64% of municipalities did not provide adequate records, appointed consultants too late or did not manage the consultants’ work properly to benefit from their appointment, effectively outsourcing responsibilities.
Key themes discussed by the speakers included:
Unpacking the implications of corruption on service delivery
Engaging on the response to the floods and what progress has been made
Determining what, if any consequences have and can be meted out on individuals who undermine the procurement processes at government institutions
Examining how the consequences meted out on individuals found to have flouted procurement processes can be strengthened to deter municipal and other government officials from engaging in corrupt activities.
Engaging on the role of citizens and civil society and other stakeholders in encouraging a culture of accountability
Thank you to the speakers, DDP Board members and all who was present at this engagement. DDP also extends its gratitude to the Konrad Adenauer Foundation for its support and InadaFM for its partnership.
Rise Mzansi KZN Convener, Nonkululeko Hlongwane-Mhlongo, IFP President VF Hlabisa, DDP's Partner Liaison and Development Officer Mbalenhle Mkhize and Executive Director Dr. Paul Kariuki at the DDP Civic Education Conference.