Underspending on failing infrastructure and a lack of expertise at municipalities have become the norm
2 Augustus 2018
South Africa’s poor municipal infrastructure will continue to deteriorate because municipalities are seemingly unable to utilise their budgets within the relevant financial year.
From the answers provided by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Minister Zweli Mkhize) to written parliamentary questions by Dr Pieter Groenewald, leader of the FF Plus, it seems as if underspending has become the norm at municipalities across South Africa. (Questions and answers available on request).
In the previous financial year (2016/17), R1,36 billion was underspent and that brings the total for the last four financial years, since 2013/14, to more than R7 billion.
In some cases, there are valid reasons for why the budgets of certain projects where not spent before the end of the financial year. However, municipalities still forfeited an amount of more than R5 billion out of a total of R7 billion over the last four financial years because they were seemingly unable to spend the money.
The Department tried to distance itself from the Auditor-General’s (AG) critique of the situation last year by putting all the blame on municipalities by saying that there is a lack of specialised skills, leadership and financial management at municipalities and that municipalities are unable to successfully implement and complete infrastructure projects.
The seriousness of the matter is further emphasised by a follow-up parliamentary question to the Minister about the shortage of trained engineers at municipalities.
According to the answer provided, there are no engineers at Randfontein and Mogale City in Gauteng and in Limpopo, the Elias Motsoaledi, Ephraim Mogale and Lephalale municipalities are without engineers. Numerous large municipalities have but a single engineer.
In most cases, the reason provided for this is that municipalities “were unable to obtain the services of a qualified and registered engineer”.
According to the Minister, the Department will deploy engineers and “other technical officers” at municipalities, particularly the 87 where there are serious problems, as part of its “intervention action”.
It is, however, not clear where these experts will come from or when the department plans to deploy them.
The abovementioned figures paint a clear picture of the department and municipalities’ incompetence, which can be attributed to a culture of poor service delivery and corruption that was established under the leadership of the ANC government.
The FF Plus suggests that to solve this problem over the long term, Affirmative Action (AA) must be abolished at once and the best-suited and the most qualified people must be appointed to do the job, irrespective of what colour their skin might be.
Statement issued by Dr. Pieter Groenewald, FF Plus leader, 3 August 2018